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Social Media Savagery: A New Marketing Approach?

In the world of social media, perception is everything, and a strong sense of identity can be the main differentiator that helps your brand stand out in a sea of noise.

Brand voice takes a lot of strategic planning to develop, and it evolves over time, but what happens when brands decide to challenge the status quo? Do you stay the course or do you shift and reinvent yourself with the times?

Enter “social media savagery.”

2017: The Year of Social Media Savages

If 2015 was the year of positivity and 2016 was the year of fake news proliferation, 2017 will be the year of the savages: the grey area between the two.

What do I mean by that?

If the term “savage AF” still isn’t on your radar, Urban Dictionary paints a better picture:

“When someone commits an act which shows no regard for feelings nor privacy”

Social media has become the de facto medium not only for individuals to speak up and voice their opinions, but in more recent times, for brands to also come out of their shells and be more brave.

Fresh as the term itself might be, social media savagery isn’t a new concept, but we’re starting to see a small but significant shift in its usage from niche companies to prolific brands.

The recent media attention surrounding Wendy’s Twitter account going full savage on certain customers is a great example of this.

For those who missed it, Wendy’s has been roasting its social detractors with replies that hug the line between lighthearted and downright insulting.

Social Media Savagery: The No Holds Barred Approach | Social Media TodayReaction has been mixed with media describing it as “hilarious”, “brutally funny” and “destroying.”

Granted, this approach isn’t new to Wendy’s strategy, but you might be asking yourself why any brand would adopt an approach that risks alienating their customers.

Is it merely a tactic to gain attention and connect with a new, younger audience or is it resistance to the “always be nice to your customers” handcuffs? Or all of the above?

To Be Or Not To Be…Funny?

Emotional marketing is one of the most effective forms of marketing today, and there’s no denying that humor, when done properly, is a great way to attract new audiences and strengthen relationships.

However, the key phrase is “when done properly.”

According to the 2016 Sprout Social Index, 32% of people are annoyed when a brand tries to be funny - when they’re clearly not.

Social Media Savagery: The No Holds Barred Approach | Social Media Today
When I think of social savagery, I think of my grade school days when “Yo Momma” jokes were all the rage. With the right joke (and delivery), the laughter and oohs and ahhs of the audience would reverberate through the halls.

What makes social media savagery popular is that it externally conveys what we’re internally theorizing, but don’t want to say out loud (in social speak, “clapping back”). Is it funny because it’s true?

Research has shown that the best type of humor encapsulates a little bit of wrong and a little bit of right, which is presumably why this type of interaction resonates with so many people. However, the same sense of humor is not universally shared, and trying to find the right balance seems to be the grey area that most brands will struggle with.

If you’re looking to incorporate this approach into your social media strategy, it’s best to proceed with caution - or not proceed at all.

The Pros and Cons of Social Savagery

Conventional social wisdom says that in order to speak to your audience, you have to think like your audience. Now before you start emulating this approach, it’s best to diligently weigh the potential risks and rewards:


  • Appeal to your audience
  • Humanize your brand
  • Increase brand visibility


  • Overhaul existing brand persona
  • Oversaturate an already popular trend
  • Overstep boundaries

Is This the New Wave of Customer Marketing and Interaction?

Whether you agree with social media savagery or not, one thing that is clear is that it’s definitely drawing the attention of marketers. There are countless articles that speak to how brands can stand out on social and how they should conduct themselves, but is airing our grievances with disgruntled users on a public forum what’s best for business?

I wouldn’t be surprised if this approach starts to make its way up into board rooms and broader marketing strategies - but be forewarned, your social audience is always looking for something new. The popularity of gimmicks that don’t reflect a true brand evolution can only last for so long before people grow bored.

If you’re all about taking chances and are vying for your brand to resonate with a specific audience, you can give it a try - but remind yourself that adventure brings some inherent risks.

Remember, what lives on social stays on social.

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