When it comes to social media and a sense of humor, some brands just get it. They know how to be likeable and thus, followable, by thousands of social media users worldwide.

Take Charmin, for example. We absolutely love their #tweetfromtheseat hashtag on Twitter. Sometimes they’re risqué, but most of the time their tweets are just laugh out loud funny.  Bissell vacuum cleaner is also a company that knows how to use a sense of humor appropriately, especially when it comes to the messes that kids and animals make.  What’s great about Bissell is that they don’t try too hard so that, when they do post a funny photo, comic or video, it’s usually really hilarious. And finally, Skittles is another brand that really embraces humor in all of their social posts. From Skittles photobombings on their Facebook page, to cannonballing into a pool of Skittles pictures on Twitter, this company knows how to have fun with their brand and their fans!

Sense of HumorBut sometimes, brands and celebrities miss the mark when it comes to social media. It’s important to make sure that your tone and humor isn’t offensive, as Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead found out the hard way with her insensitive Tweet about Oklahoma tornados targeting conservatives.  She handled the offensive post well, issuing an apology with the #letmehaveit hashtag preparing herself for the criticism that ensued. As far as I know, Comedy Central didn’t reprimand her for the comment and she took her lumps like a big girl until her fans and followers moved on. Kudos to Comedy Central for recognizing that sometimes, people make mistakes with their social media accounts.

But one brand that couldn’t afford to show the same restraint is Taco Bell, recently embroiled in a Facebook photo fiasco showing an employee licking a giant stack of corn tacos. The company issued a statement beneath the offensive photo on Facebook, claiming that the photo was a prank, the items were not served to customers, and that they would launch an investigation. A couple of hours later, they issued a statement on their corporate page that further explained the photo as part of an internal contest showing how employees enjoy the chain’s newest product. The photo clearly depicted the employee violating the brands’ food handling procedures and, since posting it to his Facebook page also violated their social media code of conduct, the employee was terminated.  And that was it, two simple responses and explanations to the offensive photos. The brand was responsive, quick to take action, explained the photo, and then moved on. The perfect strategy to contain a public relations nightmare.

But one brand that missed the mark when it comes to sense of humor and potential social media nightmares is JC Penny. A couple of weeks ago, a billboard in California depicting a Michael Graves designed teapot that bore an uncanny resemblance to Hitler, became a social media sensation. Comments poured into Reddit, Twitter, and other social media platforms, and the photo of the billboard went viral in seconds. The company panicked and issued a statement that the resemblance was an accident and not intentional. The brand then posted a photo of a snowman teapot, claiming that had they wanted to create a teapot to bear someone’s likeness, it would be the snowman and certainly not Hitler. And then, the brand took the statement one step further, and began to copy and paste the comment to respond to every single Hitler comment they received on Twitter.  A social media response, in my opinion, that was certainly over the top. One statement on their corporate page, with links from their social media platforms, would have been more than enough to satisfy anyone who honestly thought it was intentional. Read back through most of the coverage and tweets, and you will see that most people were just having a good laugh at the whole thing.

So when it comes to having a sense of humor and social media, it’s important to recognize that it really is a sensitive juggling act. But, when a brand manages to get that balance just right, it can result in both an increase in fans and followers, and a bump in overall brand likeability.