“There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
Yes there is—of course there is. Online, bad publicity can drive traffic, but it also means the first interaction people will have with you or your brand is in the context of anger, offense, or indignation.
When you put your focus on being snarky, witty, cutting edge, current, or otherwise overreaching your role, you run the risk of alienating your target audience in the hopes of achieving broader engagement. That is the wrong way to leverage social media, and a terrible way to build your brand.
Joining the internet peanut gallery through your content and social networking is a great way to shoot yourself—or your company—in the foot. Even a lack of research into trending hashtags and topics can turn your attempt to be relevant into a storm of damage-control; not the best use of your time and energy, much less your marketing resources.
The best way to mitigate the risk of a marketing misstep is to preempt that kind of engagement entirely. It is challenging enough to keep ahead of the curve in terms of relevant, useful, original content that is actually valuable to people.
Just like the age-old advice to parents, you can’t be your kids’ friend, and an authority: you need to pick a role and stick with it. And kids need a parent more than a friend. That is why in plotting and executing your social media strategy, you might fare better if you stick to value-added posts (informative) rather than aiming to be a comedian.
That doesn’t mean you should shed your personality.
You can try to adopt a casual, accessible persona for your brand online and in social media—but never forget that ultimately, you are there to provide value and interaction on behalf of that brand, not put it out on a limb by offering unsolicited commentary, boundary-pushing humor, or irrelevant attempts at wit and candor.
Information is value; personality helps make that information less dry and more palatable. If you manage to tweet a good one-liner or snappy rejoinder, it may get some positive response, but the lasting impact can never match the power of something informative. People can use that, and are more likely to pass it along.
If you feel your comic skills are just too great to be contained, just bear in mind that too much comedy relies on a victim. Rather than trying to pick a safe target, keep deprecating comments focused on yourself, not outward.
Opinions can easily devolve into insults; always aspire to provide commentary that is affirmative (i.e., “our experience has been that the best results come from…”) rather than negative (i.e., “We think it would be stupid to…” or “Other people wrongly believe…”)
Don’t inject yourself into places or conversations you don’t naturally gravitate towards. There is always breaking news, a latest scandal, or some polarizing figure chewing up the cycle of online discourse. Weighing in simply to scoop up some of the associated traffic will nearly always cost you more in terms of reputation than it will yield in terms of traffic and positive attention.
Whatever your brand, there is an audience and a market for that—find it, and concentrate on serving its members. It is easy to get caught up in following the crowd with the highest population, but you (and your audience/customers) will both be better served if you stay focused and relevant.