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When does it work to have a sense of humor in social media?

Photo courtesy of Special via Flickr

Cynthia Boris’ recent blog post about Skittles’ Facebook presence and its random musings pointed out that seemingly meaningless wall posts garner an inordinate number of comments and “likes” from its fans and friends. These random posts have no connection to Skittles whatsoever but got a huge response from its loyal public.

Skittles only posts random musings on its Facebook page. This approach mirrors its broader efforts with their sometimes funny but always bizarre television commercials featuring the candy but rarely mentioning what it tastes like, what it’s made of, etc. (Check them out here and here) While it’s unknown if Skittles’ random Facebook postings actually translate into candy sales, the number of comments and “likes” aren’t insignificant.

But she was just talking about candy. What about other brands?

Jay Dolan of Social Media Today took issue with the levity of the tweets from the TSA during the Thanksgiving holiday. He argues that the TSA had a responsibility to the public to relay pertinent travel information rather than including light-hearted tweets related to pilgrims and turkeys. Dolan argued that Twitter should have been a no-nonsense source of information, especially given the TSA’s recent scrutiny for its new security procedures. To Dolan, it wasn’t appropriate for the TSA to make jokes or express personality.

In looking at the TSA’s Twitter stream on the days before and after Thanksgiving, I couldn’t find any examples of people complaining about the levity of the TSA’s tweets about pilgrim belt buckles and turkeys walking through security checkpoints. It should be noted that the humorous tweets were a small percentage of the informative tweets that linked its more than 10,000 followers to relevant travel information and travel times. In fact, I found a few tweets to @TSABlogTeam thanking them for the useful information they provided.

The fantastic advantage for companies using social media is that it provides the opportunity for them to have personality and connect with consumers beyond the stuffy constraints of corporate jargon. But are there scenarios where social media accounts should only be straightforward and informative? Never cracking a joke?

Obviously there’s a big difference between the social media objectives of a company such as Skittles and a government agency such as the TSA. Skittles only posts “random-ness” and some might agree with Dolan that a brand like the TSA should only post information.

What do you think? Should some brands avoid humor on social media? Should Skittles embrace some seriousness? Can the TSA crack a joke every once in awhile?

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Cision's research staff makes over 20,000 media updates to Cision's Media Database each day! For more updates and other thought leadership in the industry, follow @Media_Moves.

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