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Image courtesy Contact Music

Ricky Gervais in his turn as host of the Golden Globes has drawn near universal criticism for his brand of humor that night. At the Globes, held this last Sunday in Los Angeles, the mood was celebratory and self-congratulatory – as is to be expected at an event of this sort. Gervais’ efforts at barbed jokes and cutting humor fell flat at best and was offensive at its worst. There is a lesson here for those of us who engage in social media enterprises.

Know your audience. Take the time and effort to match your message, tone and style to your audience. It is obvious when stated, but it is amazing how often people forget this simple directive when planning a social media marketing campaign. Sometimes it is the impulse to project a young and hip image and sometimes it is the belief that sarcasm carries over well in all media – but these can lead to misguided efforts at humor that do not work. Sarcasm, dissing or yo mama jokes have a place and context and they tend to backfire when forced into places where they don’t fit.

Social media is all about a conversational style and making connections with your audience. As I see it, these are our reminders from Gervais:

  • Don’t diss your audience.
  • Don’t be the mood killer.
  • Don’t make people cringe.
  • Don’t be adversarial.

You do not want to seem like a bully and you definitely do not want to be ignored at the end of the night. In social media, more than even in traditional marketing, the emphasis is on connecting with your fans and followers and it is important to hit the right note and to not alienate your target market.

Gervais has an effortless comic style and he has found many successful outlets for his brand of humor. But in this instance, his reading of the evening was far off the mark – Golden Globes is a time for gentler humor, an evening of affectionate teasing. The host does have some leeway – the affection can be faked but the teasing better remain unchanged!