Brands can't be as honest as they might like in dealing with haters on Facebook. But sometimes other Facebook users can do it for them.
That dynamic played out in particularly rogue fashion on Target's Facebook page this week. As the retailer received a steady stream of nasty comments from people upset about its move toward gender-neutral labeling of children's products in its stores, Facebook user Mike Melgaard came to Target's defense—in a provocative manner. He created a fake Facebook account and posed as a Target customer service rep—under the name Ask ForHelp, with a bull's-eye profile pic—and began excoriating the haters with comically sarcastic replies.
He got away with it for about 16 hours, too, commenting on about 50 posts before the fake account was shut down. Here are a few of his greatest hits:
Melgaard tells AdFreak that he was just surfing Facebook on Sunday night when he noticed that Target was moving away from gender-based labels in both the toy and children's bedding sections.
"Immediately, I knew there would be your typical outraged American spouting emotional reactions on their Facebook page," he says. "After taking a look, I was literally laughing out loud at my computer. A few more minutes in and it struck me how hilarious it would be to portray myself as a parody customer service rep. So, I did just that, and the rest was history. Honestly, it was like striking comedy gold. Every one of these people gave me the ammunition I needed for a great response."
A self-described "pot-stirrer," Melgaard says his stunt was more about the comedy than taking a stance on the issue. "I definitely side with Target and support their decision wholeheartedly," he says. "That being said, this was, for me, more about the laughs. I absolutely love satirical humor, and I think America could use a little more laughter."
Target gave this statement to AdFreak on Thursday: "At Target, we are committed to providing outstanding guest service to our guests wherever we engage with them—in our stores, online, or on our social pages. Clearly this individual was not speaking on behalf of Target. Should guests ever have questions on whether a communication from Target is legitimate, we encourage them to reach out to guest relations at 1-800-440-0680."
[UPDATE: That was a pretty dry statement. But on Thursday night, Target offered a pretty clear endorsement of Melgaard's antics by posting this genius photo to Facebook—an ode to trolls if ever there was one.)
For his part, Melgaard says he probably wasn't doing the retailer any harm.
"Of course they could get upset," Melgaard says, "but in this day and age I'm willing to bet their marketing team is intelligent enough to predict people like myself who come along to 'stir the pot.' I actually suspect that what I did shone an overall positive spotlight on Target."
See more of Melgaard's trolling below.