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In January 2017, Wendy’s revolutionized brand Twitter by turning their Twitter fingers into trigger fingers. A social media manager hit gold that day when the brand chose to respond to a Twitter user who, as Wendy’s jokingly tweeted, “had forgotten refrigerators existed.”
Now there are a few important things to note here.
First, Wendy’s didn’t go looking for the smoke, they simply posted an enticing product photo, saw the opportunity to have a playful moment and went viral. Seeing that their audience had an appetite for a funny and sassy social tone, the brand started incorporating it, but in a way that always tied back to the product.
Existing followers boosted the content, thus drawing in new audiences that were eager to laugh along with Wendy’s. Wendy’s approach became canon right up there with moments like Oreo’s Dunk in Dark tweet. Social teams were (and still are) eager to establish this level of virality, but with an original tone that ties back to their brand values.
In January 2017, I started my first social media job at media company Laundry Service and it was truly the Wild West of brand Twitter. In that first year, I helped manage social accounts for a variety of Twitter verticals, including Sephora Collection, Celestial Seasonings and T-Mobile. I soon realized I was essentially working a customer service job, and boy, are people mean when they get to hide behind a computer screen.
Working in social media isn’t just thinking of fun photos for cultural moments or tweeting at celebrities. It’s working night and day to match up with go-to-market plans to create social-first messaging that will entice our audience to interact, engage and share, thus creating affinity and loyalty as well as exposing us to potential new audience members.
Luckily there is a community of people who also manage brand accounts that are trying to make sure their peers don’t feel undervalued and underappreciated. We work together to hack the algorithm and hunt for the golden insight, but most importantly, we root for each other and make each other laugh when a Karen barks in our mentions.
Fast forward to November 2021. Social has evolved, and the world has gotten weirder, but I’m still learning from the wonderful humans around me. Working across a variety of brands means that I’ve helped develop multiple playbooks centered around unique tones of voice and community approaches.
Each project or approach I’ve developed must answer two questions: Does this create brand or product awareness? And is this message something that our existing or future community will care about? If it doesn’t check both boxes, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
I have been hesitant to share my thoughts on social marketing strategies because I don’t want to be unnecessarily critical of others’ best efforts. But I couldn’t bite my tongue after Daily Harvest, a small direct-to-consumer subscription health food brand, began to negatively interact with multiple brand Twitter accounts last week, including some run by my peers. In a 48-hour period, it responded to playful brand interactions with a snarky tone under the guise of attacking big processed food companies.
The approach was meant to follow Wendy’s model, but it was to an extreme as Daily Harvest cut down perceived competitors for clout. Interactions like the one below left me and many others with a sour taste in our mouths (no pun intended). It’s understandable when a stranger comes for a brand, but less so when it’s one of our own.
This strategy was effective for driving visibility for the brand. It certainly ramped up mentions, but not in a positive way. Brand Twitter quickly united over a shared disappointment in Daily Harvest’s approach of attacking in order to gain flash-in-the-pan metrics.
When I shared a Twitter thread with my thoughts, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people commented—not only in my replies, but across Twitter. Comments ranged from why it was wrong to shame snack companies that are more accessible to lower income households to the clear lack of payoff for both the brand and its product. Others argued that this strategy demonstrated a true lack of understanding of their target audience.
For me, it comes back to a lack of understanding of how the brand community works. At the end of the day, we’re all just human beings on the other side of a screen trying to make good work and sell some products. Brands are on Twitter to connect with new and potential customers and show how it can benefit their lives, not go to war with other brands.
I hope Daily Harvest will reconsider this approach in the future, not only for the sake of their audience but because they are a small business making products designed to make people feel good. It’s not too late for Daily Harvest to turn off the snark, put down Wendy’s tweet archive and find a way to work with the brand community in a way that actually makes sense for their audience and products. The world could use a little more original content—and a little empathy.