Every day, it seems, we see an example of a company, or an individual social media marketer, doing something dumb on the Internet.The cycle goes something like:
- Brand or person says something dumb or offensive
- Other social media addicts/professionals see it, point it out, act offended
- Mainstream media picks it up
- Social media professionals write “lessons learned” posts because, you know, they all know better than you and they miraculously had a break from all that billable work they do so they could write such an ingenious post telling the rest of us how it is and how it should be – oh, and because “Oreo“
- Someone gets fired, and brand or person either digs a deeper hole or disappears
- True context of original offending remark is revealed and everyone takes a breath and backs off (HA! Had you there, didn’t I?)
I’m not going to write some sort of navel-gazing or preachy post dissecting the latest “offensive Tweet” scandal (the Justine Sacco Africa/AIDS thing), and what “social media marketing lessons” we can learn from it. That’s tired- and if it’s not tired, someone will do it better than I can before I hit “publish.”
So let’s step back a little and look at one of the main problems driving a lot of these contretemps, particularly this latest episode:
The problem is not that people are bad at marketing; they are bad at comedy.
It’s a popular sport to try to be clever to get attention (I am certainly guilty of that), but the ability to sense what is funny, clever, and most importantly, strikes the right tone, is frequently absent. Was Justine Sacco missing the mark with her “I’m going to Africa/Hope I don’t get AIDS/Haha I’m white” tweet? Most likely (notice I didn’t definitively say “no), and certainly it reflected poorly on her employer, even on a personal account (another topic for another post). Did GoGo, the in-flight wireless company, strike out by trying to joke about her inability to manage her disintegrating online reputation while in flight? Perhaps.
How can people and companies make these decisions? We’re marketers, PR pros, social media ninjagururockstars and companies, not performers!
Oops- we are performers. What a big stage we have. We should realize that. So who can help us with tone, timing, and just being good at banter and cleverness?
Who gets away with saying outrageous things and still getting a laugh? Comics.
Who can put a punchline against a serious topic and still make the point? Comics.
Marketers should study comedy. Companies, agencies and trade shows should hire comics to teach workshops on being funny without killing your message and you brand.
Not everyone is naturally funny, but anyone should at least be able where they can draw the line of what not to say and when not to say it- and of after that, what they can actually get away with and be applauded for it.
So- be funny! But know how to do it first.
Isn’t breaking down the art of comedy into hundreds of words of prose entertaining? Let me know in comments.