Don’t be Regina George on Social: Snark is Okay; Mean is Bad

by | Jul 17, 2023 | Connection, Oh Snap! News, Social Media, Social Media Engagement, Social Media Strategy

Big brand personalities mean big engagement. But while we all love a well-placed Wendy’s roast, there’s a fine line between being deliciously snarky and just plain mean. 

The thing that sparked this blog post was a recent Thread (Meta’s newly launched answer to Twitter) where a just-some-guy commenter innocuously mused about brand approaches to social media in general. The American Eagle brand account – who hadn’t been tagged in the comment – leapt in with a snarky gif, sparking an internet pile-on on the just-some-guy commentator. Not cool, friends.

Let’s unpack this a bit. Because these days brands are all over the web being weird and snarky and unhinged, right? The thing that makes this interaction different is that the original commenter didn’t tag (or even mention!) any brands in his thread. He was just musing on the interwebz doing his thing…but a major brand found him and used its platform to basically bully him. 

Like Grandma says, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Before you unleash that snarky (or worse, NSFW) comment on Threads or wherever, ask yourself:

  • What’s the context? Is the conversation relevant to your brand or aligned with something you usually talk about? 
  • Am I punching up, or down? Sparring with bigger brands or competitors can be fun. Poking fun at some poor human just doing their thing is simply mean. 
  • Was I invited? Were you tagged or mentioned in the conversation? Randomly pushing into a convo has Big Brother vibes.   
  • What’s the brand impact? Is the comment in line with your brand identity and social media strategy? Or is something you’re going to rush to delete in a few minutes? (We’re talking to you, Duolingo owl!!)

And while I totally get that being as whacky and chaotic as possible is one way to stand out in the super-glutted social media space, I think there’s some bad stuff going on with these “unhinged” brands. The internet being what it is, it’s super easy to build a toxic community of “reply guys” – especially if you’re a brand in a position of power. In our upside-down world, weird, snarky stuff too often gets coded as “authenticity” – something people are desperate for in where literally everything feels strategically orchestrated to sell or market a product (I mean, even our besties are microinfluencers these days!). It’s kind of like the way that film and book reviews got really mean there for a while, because a scathing teardown became conflated with deep thought. Nah, friends. It’s fine to be weird. But it’s even better to be nice and helpful and considerate. Do you want people following you because you add to their lives, or because you’re a trainwreck?

The takeaway? If you’re feeling like you need to go full Regina George to get eyeballs on your account, it’s time to rethink that strategy. Quirky is great (we love the witty, amazingly on-brand National Park Service posts!). Witty snark and banter work as well – just so long as you’re on an even playing field with the person you’re talking to, OR they’ve invited you into the conversation. But going after an individual for the internet points really isn’t the way to play it, at least not if you value your brand longevity. 

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