To use social media effectively you need to be aware of the news agenda and responsive enough to make best use of it. However you also have to think carefully about how you piggyback on news, especially if it’s negative.
The recent horse meat scandal led to lots of brands jumping on board to make best use of the joke elements that came about. Virgin Media did well with its fake apology for showing moovies (ie films about cows) that actually contained lots of horses. Why did the spoofs work though? Because no-one was harmed by the ingestion of horse meat. At least not yet.
On the other hand, there have been some appalling social media gaffs around true disasters. In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, Epicurious, the food lovers website tweeted “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today,” followed by a link. And if that wasn’t bad enough they went on to say “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!”. Obviously a buffoon in charge of their tweeting there! They eventually apologised, but the damage had been done.
On a lighter note, an example of a brand that has got it dab on is Oreo. When the blackout happened at the SuperBowl, Oreo produced an ad, beautifully designed and simple, with the strapline “You can still dunk in the dark’. It generated over 23 million tweets during the game. That’s not just quick thinking that’s quick action. Worth thinking about when you consider your own tweeting strategy. Who are you targeting? Where are they? What is happening that could create global reach? I don’t expect that Oreo had this one up their sleeves in case there was a blackout at the games (unless they are serious pranksters!) but I would bet that they had a range of others, ready for an ‘unexpected’ happening.
So the moral of this story? With social media, the clever brands don’t just respond to the news, they prepare for it.