Recently, Wendy's received a heap of media coverage for its controversial social media approach of offering providing responses to complaints and criticisms.
It's pretty funny, for sure, and there are various examples of Wendy's executing this approach perfectly - but at the same time, the strategy presents significant risk. While it has worked to generate coverage and exposure for Wendy's, it may not be the best approach for your business - and a new study from Sprout Social has found that such responses are actually not appreciated by customers at all, even if they generate attention.
According to Sprout's Q2 Index report, 72% of consumers believe there's value in brands exhibiting humor on social but only 33% actually want brands to 'bring on the snark full force'.
By comparison, and as you can see in the above chart, what consumers want more than anything else is honestly from business on social, as well as a welcoming, helpful approach aimed at providing them with effective customer service.
The numbers also show that consumers are less interested in brands trying to tap into trends or bringing political opinion to their brand presence. Of course, individual results will vary, and you should always be driven by what your unique community responds to, but Sprout's findings show that it's not always necessary to jump onto the latest trend. Maybe, all that coverage and attention isn't actually driving business results.
But that said, brand personality is important - Sprout's researchers found that consumers do want to see business share more of who they are and what they stand for, particularly on Facebook.
And that makes sense - people go to Facebook to connect with friends and family primarily, and therefore, in order to align with that behavior, it may benefit brands to post content more in line with the personal updates and posts that dominate the platform.
This can also help build community on The Social Network - because people on Facebook are more likely to be connected to like-minded folk, adding personality to your updates can expand your brand message amongst groups of inter-connected people who'll better connect with your messaging through shares and comments.
And while the data here shows that consumers are less interested in brand personality via tweet or Instagram update, when Millennial responses are split from the rest, you can see that the expectation increases significantly, which underlines the increased importance of those platforms among younger users.
Further underlining the brand behaviors that annoy consumers on social, Sprout's researchers also found that consumers don't like brands making fun of consumers - with an overwhelming 88% of respondents indicating that they find such behavior 'annoying'.
You can see also that making fun of competitors, using slang and talking politics are also not appreciated, while even using GIFs is not a particularly popular tactic.
This is interesting because Twitter's own data shows that tweets with GIFs generate 6X more engagement, on average, than plain text updates. The consumer insights here, of course, are not Twitter-specific, but still, it's an interesting consideration, and may, again, highlight that generating engagement on social, in itself, may not be indicative of actual audience response - it's important to look beyond the base metrics and monitor whether such tactics are actually helping achieve your business goals, as opposed to boosting your on-platform metrics.
But then again, if you're looking to reach a younger audience, Sprout's data also shows that Millennials are more receptive to GIFs, making fun of brands and using slang terms.
But no matter who your market is, make sure you respond to audience queries. Always.
The key question, however, is how do these behaviors translate into actual sales - do people who find brands engaging on social actually go on to become customers? Sprout found that while humor and trash-talking may help business get attention, responsiveness, effective promotions and educational content are the key factors that generate the best sales results,
As noted by Sprout:
"Being funny on social isn't going to drive ROI, and depending on your industry, a humorous social presence isn't your audience's top priority anyway. Your brand's personality might not result in an influx of media placements, but that doesn't mean you're not a winner. Focus on what the majority of consumers want and what any brand, regardless of industry, can execute: honest, helpful, friendly behavior."
Being funny or brining the sass might help generate attention - and again, your unique audience may be different - but in most cases brands should primarily focus on providing helpful, responsive service than delivers on customer needs ahead of looking for opportunities to drop a joke or make a witty remark.
These are some helpful insights, and there's more in depth data in Sprout's full report. While social media snark may be a cool trend, and may help generate coverage and/or reach, the majority of people who are reaching out on social are looking for honest, genuine advice to help them with their problems.
For most brands, this will be obvious, but it's worth noting, as highlighted by the data here, that despite trends, you need to ensure you remain focused on the key goals of your social presence and not get sucked into the vanity metrics trap.
It might work for some - and each business and campaign will have different goals - but keep a focus no your bottom line when executing any such strategic shift.
You can read the full Q2 2017 Sprout Social Index here.