Has social media made us lose our sense of humor? That is the question I find asking myself. It seems that you can no longer voice your point of view or opinion on social media anymore without hurting someone’s feelings. Have you ever found yourself beginning to type out a text message, a post or a tweet, and halfway through your text you begin frantically tap the backspace button because a little voice in your head said it might be a little insensitive?
When does a joke start rubbing the sensitivity mob the wrong way?
Cracking a joke on social media has become harder than solving for X. It either has to hit all the right notes or you face major criticism and therein lies the problem. Jokes are relatively subjective, what may be funny to one person may not be necessarily funny to another. People have literally destroyed their careers due to a joke on social media. It’s like a bad joke is Mentos and social media is the diet coke. The situation gets sticky pretty fast.
So what constitutes a bad joke on social media?
The simple answer is the audience cannot relate to the joke in one or more ways. One of the issues that makes telling jokes more risqué on social media is that the people who read it may do so with a different tone than was intended. They may take it as a matter-of-fact as opposed to what it is;
just a joke.
For example: “a Black guy, a Colored guy, a White guy, a Chinese guy and an Indian guy walk into a bar. The bar man says, “What? is this a Joke?”
While this is a somewhat humorous joke, it depends on a couple of premises.
- #1) Do you know that the general perception is that you seldom find a group of friends with such a diverse racial composition?
- #2) This is applicable only in a bar which is a classic bar type joke, not everywhere else.
Now the sensitivity mob would have a field day with this joke because it has a racial undertone which is essentially the pepper that gives the joke flavor. This kind of joke may not get you fired if you tweeted it but it may get you some angry emojis. Truth is a bad joke may be bad but not necessarily insensitive.
Well, a bad joke isn’t funny. That’s the problem.
Now, depending on the joke, it could be unfunny for a number of reasons: it was hard to follow, it didn’t make sense, there was no punchline, the punchline was offensive instead of funny (humor is tricky like that), people didn’t know it was a joke (which is something I find funny, personally, but others tend not to), they’ve heard it before, perhaps too many times… Half of the joke is gauging what humor the audience will appreciate.
As an individual, it is relatively easy to do a bit of damage control after you’ve offended your followers but as a brand that can be a whole other ball game since these are the very people you’ll be selling your product to.
So maybe the more relevant question is, what constitutes an insensitive joke, especially as a brand?
Here are a few tips that can help a brand or individuals navigate the social media minefield so as to avoid putting a foot wrong and having netizens blow up your newsfeed.
This seems obvious, but it’s all too easy to forget, especially during the typical fast-paced marketing workday. If I’d just bothered to even glance at my social feeds the day of the bombings in Boston, I would have quickly figured out that it wasn’t the right time at all to be in joke mode.
WARNING: This video is filled with profanity, but it makes the point
TIP: Making a habit of briefly checking news headlines once or twice a day could help your brand stay the safe course in the future.
Unfortunately, bad things happen all over the world every day. This is why it’s important to know your audience in addition to current events. Something significant could be happening in your core audience’s community that no one else in the state or nation will have heard about. Conversely, something big could be happening nationally that doesn’t affect your unique audience. As with everything, exercise caution and good judgment when you share content.
Check your scheduled content.
I see this happen all the time! If something big goes down, make sure you’re not still sending tweets and posts into the void. Merrily chirping about your product features or special sales deals while the rest of social media is in mourning paints your brand as clueless at best and uncaring and insensitive at worst.
Never try to piggyback your brand on a tragedy.
It’s one thing to express sympathy and quite another to use a tragedy as a launching pad for your own self-promotion. You’ll just end up looking tactless and callous.
Remember: you don’t want your brand associated with bad or sad stuff. If it’s bad or sad, stay away! These tips are all well and good, but what if the unthinkable happens and you mess up? Don’t panic. Your brand can recover from a gaffe — provided you come at the issue with a good mix of apology, humility, and creativity.
If you do step on a Social Media landmine, Don’t just delete, treat.
A post is forever. Even if you delete an offending post as soon as possible, it’s probable that someone caught a screen capture of it. And even if no one did, it’s likely some of your clients saw it and you owe them an apology. So don’t just delete the post, acknowledge it, apologize where necessary or find a way to make it work in your favor with a bit of clever damage control.
With that being said, go out there and spread a little cheer and share a smile with your fellow netizens because the world needs more of that.