NSFW humor and sexually explicit material. The marketing division adopted the tactic that helped many radio shock jocks establish their careers in the 1980s and 1990s. B2C brands everywhere are turning up the social media snark to 11 in the name of virality and brand recognition, from RadioShack to Corn Nuts.
It's effective in some ways.
According to a recent article in Adweek, firms that embrace rebellious mascots and brash social media manager identities are seeing an increase in reach and audience size.
But given the increased pressure social teams are under to link their work to financial objectives, how effective is shock value? How humanely resilient is this approach to safeguarding the wellbeing of social and communications teams (who take the brunt of the criticism when content offends)?
Let me explain.
Being raunchy on Main can only help a business so much in the never-ending search for "authenticity" (and the people who manage it).
Slack threads and Zoom calls without the a-word are the exceptions, not the rule, for anyone working in marketing.
Brands are now reevaluating the function of their social media marketing team as a result. This can involve transferring social media experts from behind the keyboard to in front of the camera in some cases, or it can involve giving them the freedom to adopt a unique voice that deviates from, say, the company About Us page.
But when social media marketers take on the role of a brand's official face or personality, there are real implications.
Employees have been dismissed for the same types of rogue Tweets that other corporations have written into their playbook just this year. Additionally, we've seen social media managers receive personal criticism and threats for posting advertisements that too strongly tap into the zeitgeist of popular culture (even after removing and apologizing for them).
Organizations must balance the value of short-term virality against the longer-term costs of tiredness and attrition. Team bandwidth and talent are the top challenge social teams confront today, not to mention the burnout that results from ongoing exposure to toxic news cycles.
Then there's the issue of whether or not viewers actually desire this hyper-focused, growingly "carnal" stuff.
Consumers still prefer postings that promote a brand's goods or services, or actual clients, according to our own Index study. Additionally, 71 percent of customers believe it's critical for brands to publicly address social issues. Think about how earnest people will find your post on women's rights, climate change, or other important issues if it is wedged between eggplant emojis and flirtatious conversations with other brand accounts.
The issue with shock value is that it swiftly deteriorates. Particularly if you're one of hundreds of brands that gravitate toward the same type of comments. Was it really worth it if you ended up with an under-resourced staff and a potential brand impression disaster on your hands?