brand engagement, coca cola, social media marketing, brand marketing, twitter

Brand engagement: how to do it without getting “cancelled”

Brand engagement with users on social media can feel like a minefield. We’re in an increasingly political environment where everything from coffee cups to breakfast cereal has some stake in the issues of today. That makes talking to users on Twitter and Instagram especially terrifying. Everything, rightly, should go through a filter of “will this damage the brand?” before posting. Some of these things are obvious. Try not to praise famous criminals, promote hate, etc. but the finer points are still being learned. And the problem with that is that users aren’t susceptible to forgiving mistakes.

However, on the other hand, we’ve seen noticeable praise for brands who can share their sense of humour, who can chat pleasantly with their user base, and who can inject some personality into their branding. We’re taking a look at a few case studies to see what they did right.

Poking fun at yourself is always a safe option

Comedians are struggling right now, but the ones that aren’t are the ones making themselves the butt of the joke. Weetabix knew this, which is why they put out a somewhat horrifying tweet suggesting that beans on toast should be changed to beans on Weetabix, complete with a food blog production photoshoot. The beauty here is that you don’t really know if they’re joking, marketers do so many swing and a miss shots to get that one that goes viral.

Taco Bell is also good at poking fun at themselves, and I suppose their audience with a joke like “Tell us why you and your ex broke up and we’ll tell you what to order tonight.”

Poking fun at the audience isn’t beyond the realm of possibility

In a world where everyone wants to either be a victim or stand up for victims, there are in fact universal demographics that you can in fact make fun of. They’re not as basic as any given race, religion, or gender, but instead, people that just kinda grind your gears.

Skittles knows how to poke fun at their own audience, saying things like “Raise your hand for a chance to win nothing”, “Using a sick day on the first day of school” and “Please always enable 2-step verification before opening a pack of Skittles to prevent unauthorized access”.

Get today’s humour

Let’s face it, we’re living in an isolated world wrought with mental health issues and replacing feelings with emojis, and by extension, humour. Which is certainly the vibe on TikTok and YouTube, but also on Twitter, with Denny’s tweeting, “If you close your eyes while holding a warm pancake it’s almost like holding hands with a real human”.

Lean into the horror, to a point. No one needs an Epstein joke. Understand the difference between relatable and distasteful to get that sweet spot.

Be controversial, up to a point

Have you ever tried to say to a Lord of the Rings fan that you don’t really rate the books? They go ballistic. It’s almost like the books are their precious!

That’s the sort of controversy you’re aiming for. Pineapple on a pizza. Marmite. Plot holes. Was the book really better? Inconsequential things that really get the blood boiling. You want to stoke the same conversation that’s happening the viral “Her sister was a witch, bro!” TikTok.

Stand up for what you believe in when necessary

While we’re on people who feel very passionately about something inconsequential, let’s look at Star Wars fans. They’ve given themselves a reputation for racism after running a few cast members off of social media, which is why the Star Wars Twitter announced one of their latest casting decisions with the words “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

And followed it up with: “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”

Answer questions

And then there’s Glossier, and by extension the creators behind the Disney film Encanto. Glossier makes a habit of answering random questions left by their fans, like how to pronounce their name. Itself an example of something you can imagine starting a fight in a bored living room, like pronouncing Primark. Pleasant engagement, no muss, no fuss.

Meanwhile, the Encanto team fully engaged with fans to expand the lore of their movie, answering questions on creative decisions, pointing out Easter Eggs, expanding the lore and praising fans for noticing finer details.


There are ways to engage with fans. Maybe the lesson is to simply talk to users like they are your friends. Call out what you don’t approve of and praise what you do, with a little jab here and there to keep them entertained.

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