Last month, Fox Sports took a swipe at Chicago Bears fans.
The network had switched from its coverage of the Bears-Vikings game—the Bears were winning handily at the time—which irked a number of viewers, who took their complaints to Twitter.
In response, the robot mascot for the NFL on Fox—whose name is Cleatus—fired off this snarky remark:
The NFL on Fox Twitter feed retweeted Cleatus—a bold move considering the initial tweet had rubbed a number of Twitter users the wrong way.
The incident brings up a question new to brands in the social media age: When is it OK to give a snarky reply?
For the brands I work with—who tend to live on the conservative end of the spectrum—the answer is never. But obviously there are brands that can get away with it. So the first step in determining when it’s OK to snark it up is to establish whether your brand can, indeed, take that tone.
After that, you have to seize your moment.
AMC did this when it responded to Oreo. The company’s digital marketing manager, Shane Adams, wrote about the experience and the ensuing back-and-forth for this site
. What Adams realized, and what all social media managers should understand, is the difference between being snarky and being mean.
In fact, it can be argued whether this was actually snarky. If you’re looking for a definition, Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary
offers the following:
1 : crotchety, snappish
2 : sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner
For brands, it’s probably better to skew toward the sarcastic and irreverent side of things. Being mean never ends well.
Chris Brown showed us an example of that last week, when an exchange
with a female comedy writer got downright gross. While Brown said it was a joke (right before deleting his Twitter account), good snark should never leave the greater audience feeling uncomfortable. (It should also probably not include defecating on or near anyone’s retina, as Brown had suggested.)
Then there’s the tale of Boston French Restaurant Pigalle, which learned the hard way how not to respond to a Facebook complaint
. The line, “Judging by how fat your face looks, you most likely shouldn’t be eating any more desserts anyway,” is not snarky—it’s just insane.
If the fan’s tone is defamatory or angry, it’s impossible to be snarky back to them. That will only light a fire and fuel a never-ending exchange that will inevitably end in Godwin’s Law
. So remember the following when choosing whether to be snarky:
• Rise to the target’s level of snark, and never lower yourself to pure insult.
• Take nothing personal. And dish out no personal digs at anyone else.
• Have fun with it. If it’s not fun, don’t do it.
• Never, never, never misspell something or use improper grammar when you’re being snarky—it only gives your target ammunition to completely destroy you.
• Don’t be snarky when it comes to a customer service issue.
What do you think? Can brands ever employ snark on social media?