NSFW quips, sexually explicit content. The strategy that launched the careers of many a radio shock jock in the ‘80s and ‘90s has found its way into the marketing department. From RadioShack to Corn Nuts, B2C brands galore are turning up the social media snark to 11 in the name of virality and brand awareness.
By some measures, it’s working. As Adweek recently reported, brands leaning into rogue mascots and brazen social media manager personas are experiencing an uptick in reach and audience size.
But how successful is shock value as social teams face more pressure to connect their work to bottom-line goals? More humanely, how sustainable is this strategy for preserving the wellbeing of social and communications teams (who bear the brunt of backlash when content strikes the wrong nerve)?
Hear me out…
In the constant pursuit of “authenticity,” being bawdy on main can only do so much for a brand (and the people who manage it).
For anyone working in marketing, Slack threads and Zoom calls that aren’t peppered with the a-word are the exception, not the rule.
As a result, we’re seeing brands rethink the role the social media team plays. In some instances, this means moving social pros from behind the keyboard to in front of the camera—in others, it’s giving them leeway to lean into a distinct voice that strays from what you’d find on, say, the company’s About Us page.
Brand accounts being profoundly horny has got to be one of the worst social media metas in a while
— Adam Bamonti (@BamUnderscore) June 13, 2022
But there are tangible consequences for social media marketers becoming the literal face or personality of a brand.
This year alone, we’ve seen employees fired for the same caliber of rogue Tweets that other brands have etched into their playbook. We’ve also seen social media managers personally rebuked and threatened for branded posts that lean too hard into the pop culture zeitgeist (even after removing and apologizing for them).
Considering that team bandwidth and talent is the number one challenge social teams face today—not to mention the burnout that comes with constant exposure to toxic news cycles—organizations need to weigh the value of short-term virality against the longer-term costs of exhaustion and turnover.
And then there’s the question of whether or not this hyper-pointed, increasingly “carnal” content is what audiences really want.
Our own Index research found that consumers still want posts highlighting a brand’s product or service, or real customers, first and foremost. What’s more, 71% of consumers feel it’s important for brands to take a public stand on social issues. Consider how sincere folks will find your post about climate change, women’s rights or other critical matters when it’s sandwiched between eggplant emojis and flirty exchanges with other brand accounts.
The problem with shock value is that it depreciates quickly. Especially if you’re one of hundreds of brands leaning into the same flavor of commentary. If you’re left with an under-resourced team and potential brand perception crisis on your hands as a result, was it really worth it?