One of the great things about social media is that, for the most part, so little thought goes into its content. People write spontaneous rejoinders to their friends’ Facebook posts, or snarky tweets with links to partisan memes, or drunk posts that are regretted the morning after.
This keeps it entertaining, if not substantive; it also has created a lucrative career market for social media strategists at major brands who just want in on the fun (in a serious way).
Take Bud Light (please). They’ve had an #UpForWhatever social media campaign going on for a while, and when St. Patrick’s Day rolled around, they tweeted, “On #StPatricksDay you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever” accompanied by a photo of five attractive college-age girls posing inside a green cutout frame with #UpForWhatever across the top.
There followed a predictable firestorm of angry tweets from people who found the post a bit creepy, with one calling it “borderline rapey.”
This was followed even more predictably by Bud Light’s deleting the tweet and apologizing for offending anyone who didn’t get their intention “only to be playful and celebrate the holiday.”
By now everyone has moved on, and the millions of people who guzzle Bud Light couldn’t care less about this controversy, if it could even be called that. But I am left to wonder once again: What do these powerful social media brand managers think about when they contemplate whether to post something? Do they think at all? Did anyone say, “Hey, you know, we might catch some pushback on this from people who won’t get our intention and might think this is offensive, creepy and borderline rapey.” And then did someone say, “Hit post, and if that happens we can always take it down then apologize for offending people who have no sense of humor.”
Plus, I can just hear them saying, “Maybe some old analog editor in Nashville will blog about it and use our hashtag and mention our brand a couple of times. Win-win, dude.”
Here’s my point: Whether you are composing a handwritten note or a 140-character witticism, writing should always be about making an intended point clearly and with effect. “Think before you write,” I often advise people. Point Two is that companies (brands!) that are all-in on the social media front should also be all-in on keeping up with the social mores that are trending in the real world. Sure, there may be some overreactions to good, clean fun out there; but those reactions are fairly predictable.
Clearly, Bud Light didn’t think about this too much. Or they didn’t really care. Or it was a strategic decision from the start to generate buzz. Or we are stuck in some kind of “Groundhog Day” movie loop where the same things keep happening over and over. Post. Delete. Apologize.
Playfully suggesting that someone pinch young girls who aren’t #UpForWhatever is tone-deaf, to say the least. Whether a room full of social media strategists or a surfer-dude they’ve hired to relate to millennials thinks it is playful and not offensive isn’t the point. Thinking about it is.