CHICAGO — Humor can have a positive impact on the perception of a brand on social media,  but a new study finds that too much snark can backfire, and consumers are ultimately more impressed by a brand showing goodwill.

Sprout Social, a firm that helps businesses manage their social media accounts, surveyed 1,000 consumers on how they wanted brands to conduct themselves on social media as part of their Sprout Social Index (for Q2 2017).

Woman browsing Facebook
How a brand behaves on social media can be paramount when it comes to connecting with and winning over consumers, a new study finds.

The study found that while nearly three-fourths of consumers said that they wanted brands to be funny on social media, only one-third wanted brands to express snarkiness. Overall, more consumers found it important for brands to be honest (86 percent), friendly (83 percent), and helpful (78 percent).

Conversely, 88 percent of consumers felt annoyed by a company that mocked its fans on social media.

“Wendy’s has worked to establish its friendly snark as a core brand trait and developed a following that hangs on its every tweet,” the researchers explain in the report.

Interestingly, social media users found different platforms more appropriate than others for a brand to flaunt its true colors.

Facebook (83 percent) was by far seen as the most accepted platform for a brand to demonstrate its personality, followed by YouTube (48 percent), Twitter (40 percent), and Instagram (35 percent).

While opinions on brand expression varied based on age — e.g., millennials were much more accepting of Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat — Facebook remained the most popular platform for all age demographics.

Making political statements was generally seen as a big no-no for companies, with 71 percent of respondents saying that they felt such expression was “annoying.”

Equally unpopular was brands using slang to appear cool, especially among older respondents.

Ultimately, the study demonstrates how simply making a presence on social is insufficient: just 36 percent would purchase a product from a brand that sets out to be funny on a given platform. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) say they’d never consider buying from a company again if they found them to be annoying on social media.

If a brand wants to turn followers into customers, they’re best served to directly interact with their buyers, offer promotions, and provide educational content. Eighty-three percent of consumers thought it was “cool” when a company responded to questions from fans on social media, while 68 percent appreciated when the brand joined in on a conversation.

“Incorporate humor into your one-on-one conversations and see how your most engaged audience reacts to your tone and voice. If the feedback is positive, test a playful voice in your editorial content, and continue to adapt and learn from there,” the researchers write.

The study’s findings were published in a report titled Consumers Aren’t Looking to Buy From Brands That Are “Cool” on Social. Click here to download the report (PDF).

About Daniel Steingold

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