Cringeworthy Tweets, chancy Twitter takeovers, questionable campaigns… the Twittersphere is full of brands exhibiting risky behavior.
There’s a fine line between risky Tweets that work and those that don’t. We dive into five examples that could’ve gone very wrong, but ended up bringing glory and success to the brands and influencers involved. What made these risky Tweets work and what can other brands learn from the outcome?
1. Smart Car USA talks back to customers
Smart Cars aren’t known for their size, so when Smart Car USA became the butt of yet another small car joke, the social team decided to respond in kind:
— Official smart USA (@smartcarusa) June 19, 2012
The brand took a joke made at the product’s expense and turned it around in good fun.
This worked because they proved that they’re not only paying attention, but also quick and clever. It was also a great chance for the car company to show just how strong its tridion safety cell is. Fans loved this brand burn, retweeting the message 587 times and liking it 448 times. It even landed the brand in several prominent publications for its clever marketing.
@smartcarusa got to give you guys your dues, not many companies would do the math for bird crap lol
— Mark Tetley (@mrt206) June 12, 2013
What can other brands learn from Smart Car USA?
Show your fans and followers that you’re listening and quick to the draw, but be sensitive should you decide to take aim at customers. This fun response gave us a glimpse of the brand’s cheekier side, but also gave the team a chance to defend their product’s durability.
2. MTV News hands over the reigns
Darcie Wilder is an employee of MTV News and a Twitter influencer with over 20,500 followers. She’s funny, sassy, honest, and unpredictable—and that’s why people love her.
when someone replies to a tweet pic.twitter.com/w5jKDSC1OK
— darcie wilder (@333333333433333) May 14, 2016
When MTV News handed over the keys to their official Twitter handle—which has 4.54 million followers—they were taking a huge risk. Wilder was free to Tweet as herself, posting whatever she wants, whenever she wants.
when the mr krabbs meme is over but mercury retrograde just started so ur feelin mr krabbs meme pic.twitter.com/6DnO6pbvYq
— MTV News (@MTVNews) April 28, 2016
As soon as Wilder took the helm, MTV News fans thought that account had been hacked.
when “mtvnews hack” is a suggested search pic.twitter.com/99fngOWABY
— MTV News (@MTVNews) April 29, 2016
But something else changed. Overnight, MTV News’ Twitter presence seemed younger, edgier, sassier, and more engaging.
may the fourth be with you and also read this star wars thing https://t.co/wI1FsAW91y
— MTV News (@MTVNews) May 4, 2016
Since Wilder’s takeover in April 2016, the brand’s taken on a quirkier, less corporate tone. The account has suddenly perked up, with new fans and more engagement.
? sometimes ? brands ? start ? tweets ? with ? a ? period ? before ? an @ ? even ? tho ? there ? are ? so ? many ? fun ? emojis ?
— MTV News (@MTVNews) April 29, 2016
What can other brands learn from MTV News?
This potentially risky move helped refresh MTV News’ tone and voice and got people re-engaged with the brand. Keep your channels fresh by swapping out who has publishing access. Don’t let your social team fall into a posting pattern with the same old Tweets. This just goes to show that a little personality can go a long way on social.
3. LA Kings partners with an unexpected influencer
Like gambling, there’s a high risk and high reward when brands partner with unexpected influencers.
Take Retta (@unfoRETTAble), for example. Also known as Donna Meagle from Parks and Recreation, Retta is a comedian, actor, and mega influencer with more than 766,000 dedicated Twitter fans. She has the power to sway decisions and start trends. When the LA Kings’ social media manager publicly asked her to live-tweet an upcoming game, the brand took a gamble. At the time, Retta knew absolutely nothing about hockey.
— Retta (@unfoRETTAble) March 27, 2013
“I decided to go, and took my friend Ted with me to the game, because I didn’t know s*&% about hockey,” Retta writes in a recent Lenny Letter. For the LA Kings, this could’ve turned into a disaster if she tweeted something controversial. But it paid off, and LA Kings fans and Retta followers alike loved the idea and engaged with her Tweets throughout that first game (and many more to come).
BROKEN STICK! Stop the game. Someone’s gonna trip!@LAKings
— Retta (@unfoRETTAble) October 22, 2013
She got hooked on hockey, following the Kings through to their Stanley Cup win that season against the New York Rangers. The players even thought she might be a good omen. Years later, Retta is still known for her hilarious live-tweeting at LA Kings games.
What can other brands learn from the LA Kings?
If you want to reach new audiences, keep your followers guessing, and refresh your tone of voice, consider taking a risk on an unexpected influencer. Not all great marketing has to come from conventional sources. But make sure to vet your influencers and consider all potential risks before taking the chance.
4. Taco Bell does the exact opposite of what we’d expect
Denny’s, Old Spice, Charmin, Wendy’s, Taco Bell… some brands act more like your silly friends on Twitter than a corporation. These guys behave exactly how you would expect a brand not to behave. Since they first started out on Twitter, they’ve taken risks and pushed their audience to the limit with every Tweet.
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) May 5, 2016
Take Taco Bell, for example. Huffington Post once said that “whoever runs Taco Bell’s Twitter account deserves a raise.” They’re that good. Taco Bell’s social media team is so on-trend that you often have to Google references and hashtags just to keep up. They joke around with celebrities, discuss weird food cravings and pairings, and join in on brand burns.
? They say to surround yourself with the things you love, so I surround myself with tacos. ?
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) April 25, 2016
What can other brands learn from Taco Bell?
Taco Bell has 1.72 million Twitter followers—and it’s not because of its tacos. People want to follow the brand because the team shares funny Tweets, takes risks, and is the opposite of most corporations on social. They constantly surprise people and that’s what matters.
5. J.C. Penney gets ‘hacked’ (or drunk)
J.C. Penney infamously stole the show during the 2014 Super Bowl with only three Tweets that garnered 46,951 retweets and 21,357 favorites.
Who kkmew theis was ghiong tob e a baweball ghamle. #lowsscorinh 5_0
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 2, 2014
Toughdown Seadawks!! Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014
Within seconds, thousands of fans, followers, and notable brands started wondering if J.C. Penny had been hacked or if their social media manager was drunk.
Was @JCpenney Twitter hacked or is their tweeter drunk?
— Ad Age (@adage) February 3, 2014
“We didn’t even think of the drunk thing!,” said Steve Babcock, executive creative director at EVB who led campaign for J.C. Penney. “I don’t drink and I’ve never sent a drunk tweet, so it was definitely an oversight on my part—call us naive.” After probably the most stressful hour of the social media team’s career thus far, J.C. Penney finally revealed that they had been tweeting with Team USA mittens on.
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014
What can other brands learn from J.C. Penney?
While the campaign went sideways and garnered questionable press for the brand, they were quick to adapt and stuck behind their campaign. J.C. Penney, and its #tweetingwithmittens hashtag, ended up being one of a handful of brands to stand out during the biggest advertising moment of the year—and all without running an actual Super Bowl ad.
Twitter is a crowded place these days. Taking a risk (while still protecting your brand) is sometimes necessary to stand out. All of these Twitter moves could have gone seriously wrong for the brands and influencers involved, but there was always an element that made them work.
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