Facebook recently broke the one billion member mark; Lady Gaga tweets to over 30 million ‘little monsters’ daily; the word ‘Lolz’ has finally emerged from online obscurity to be formally recognised in the Oxford Dictionary.
No matter how you look at it (or through which Instagram filter), the scale of the social media world is overwhelming – it has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, from how we talk (barely), to how we drive (dangerously) and of course how we share (obsessively).
Having documented, diarised and displayed nearly every aspect of our lives via social media platforms, the inevitable has occurred. We have examined ourselves and our lives so closely that we have been forced to see the funny side (as well as every meal eaten by everyone, ever).
Self-deprecation and parody of our social media behaviours – most glaringly, our twitchy thumbs – is now driving almost as many memes as Rick Rolling and LOLCats combined. That’s unheard of. We have grown to love making fun of ourselves for our social media habits – the good, the bad and the ugly (two words: duck face).
It comes as no surprise then that we are seeing brands, keen to stay on-trend, begin to jump on the bandwagon to point out some of the more ridiculous aspects of our networking narcissism. DDB’s recent #FirstWorldProblems campaign for not-for-profit organisation WaterIsLife is a good example.
When done right, this can be a great way for brands to up their cred with consumers. It proves how hip and in-touch with both their audience and the platform they are. In the best case scenario, it pitches them as ‘just one of the gang’ – which is all well and good as long as they remember one very important thing: they’re not.
This certainly doesn’t mean brands can’t play in this space, it just means they need to err on the side of caution when joining in on a consumer conversation to poke fun at the very people they depend on to support their brand.
Think of the last time a friend was bemoaning how ridiculous/frustrating/selfish their partner was – it’s fine for you to listen, even throw in the occasional enthusiastic nod of agreement, but join in to point out how stupid they look when they dance? Not okay.
The same rules apply here – it’s fine for consumers to make fun of themselves but for brands planning to take a seat in the peanut gallery, here are three quick guidelines to live by:
Step 1: Find an existing social media behaviour with scale – do not DIY.
Your audience has to be aware of the behaviour before they can appreciate your punch line, so choose something with considerable scale. Trying to introduce or manufacture your own social media ‘in-joke’ will generate nothing but awkward social silence.
Step 2: If you’re going to say something, make it good.
Keep in mind there are millions of people looking at the same content you are and making jokes about it every day, so be sure you have an original angle or at least the content and copy to compete. Don’t work hard to get their attention if you have nothing worthwhile for them to see, do or get involved in.
Step 3: Understand the context and work with it.
If you don’t understand the context, tone or underlying meaning of the behaviour you are trying to satirise, steer clear – using it incorrectly or out of context will cost you all credibility. Like your mum calling your friends ‘girlfriend’; awkward for all involved.
When it comes to the social media space, ultimately brands should consider themselves a guest at a party. Try to fit in and make friends – be funny, charming and by all means bring gifts. Guests that storm in and take over the DJ decks are rarely invited back.
Tess Murphy is strategy executive at Carat Melbourne