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How to Nail the Art of the Brand Comeback on Social Media

With risk comes reward — especially if you stay true to your brand voice and purpose. Let these brand comebacks inspire your next tweet.

Josiah Hughes August 25, 2022
How to Nail the Art of the Brand Comeback on Social Media | Hootsuite

Look, Twitter may have a reputation for endless political discourse and ancient memes. And sure, sometimes that’s true. But it’s still an important platform for your brand. Especially if you want to practice the art of risky brand comebacks.

These days, snarky brand Twitter is beginning to feel a little played out. But there’s still plenty of room to make waves with the right online presence. And it’s not limited to Twitter alone. TikTok, Instagram and Facebook offer plenty of space to flex your social personality.

Ready to learn from the pros? Let’s examine some successful social risk-takers who can inspire your brand’s comebacks.

Bonus: Read the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.

What are risky brand comebacks?

In recent years, brands have cultivated enormous followings by taking huge risks. They’ve gone snarky (Wendy’s), wacky (Moonpie), unhinged (Duolingo) and downright emo (Steakums). These brands have earned tons of coverage from unexpected sources by thinking outside of the box.

That may have paid off for those brands, but the lesson is not to copy their strategy. Aggro commentary from your small account might not make sense. Plus, trends move fast. The last thing you want to do is copy someone else and end up making outdated or cringe-worthy content.

The lesson here is that with risk comes reward — especially if you stay true to your voice and purpose. Brand comebacks might mean pushing the envelope, owning up to mistakes, or even taking a political stance.

Risk also might mean, well, being earnest. The days of snarky, sarcastic comebacks are numbered. These days, brands seem to be finding more success by being nice.

But there are still plenty of fresh ways to mix it up online. Here are some of the best comebacks we’ve seen brands make across their social media. Watch and learn.

1. Play the heel

You don’t always need to reply to take risks that pay off. Remember, everyone’s scrolling Twitter in search of something to “dunk” on.

The British breakfast barons at Weetabix had a major win by making themselves the butt of the joke on Twitter. Their hilariously off-putting food pic became a massive global trending topic. (We hope it was intentional, but really, it doesn’t matter.)

Lesser brand managers may have deleted the tweet when it was getting mocked. But Weetabix won out by staying the course, even getting in on the banter fest.

2. Join the dogpile (when appropriate)

The genius of Weetabix’s disgusting food pic lay in its ability to unite the crowd. After all, it’s a pretty gross-looking picture (though we’ll admit, we’re a little… curious).

Still, it’s the kind of non-controversial “bad” post that can unite the internet. And plenty of people got on board.

The post was mocked by everyone from Britain’s National Rail to an official Beatles museum. The gift company Moonpig put beans on one of their own greeting cards. Competing chicken sellers KFC and Nando’s even engaged in a bit of friendly banter in the replies. Even Pfizer got in on the jabs.

It was a veritable honeypot for brand Twitter, all thanks to Weetabix. But some parties still shouldn’t have shown up. The official Israel account‘s reply, for example, wasn’t exactly well-received.

3. Aim for quote-tweets

At this point, the biggest risk you can take on Twitter is putting yourself out there. After all, if your tweet gets a lot of attention, chances are someone will be rude.

But you don’t win big by playing it safe. Instead, if you want attention, try coming up with engagement-bait prompts. If they relate to your brand, even better.

Music festival newsletter The Festive Owl recently had a huge hit with a simple prompt. It paid off, earning over 5,000 quote-tweets and counting.

Again — the risk here is that people might be rude. If you choose to go this route, double-check your prompt and make sure it’s relevant to your brand. If your tweet reeks of desperation, it could backfire.

4. Keep it sneaky

There are ways to insert yourself into the discourse without @ing anyone. The folks at Merriam-Webster have proven masterful at this strategy.

It should come as no surprise that one of the world’s most popular dictionaries has a way with words. But their 2021 word of the year was a particularly subtle stroke of genius.

By choosing “vaccine,” the brand broached a hot-button topic without risking any backlash. The real conversations continued in the quote-tweets, but Merriam-Webster got it started.

5. Really include the audience

The sugar merchants over at Skittles may be sweet, but they’re not afraid to get a little salty. They’ve included their audience in plenty of hilarious comebacks without being rude.

It works because they make themselves the butt of the joke. For proof, check out this absurd list of thousands of people who complained about a recent change.

And it paid off. Skittles even won Twitter’s official best brand bracket in 2022:

6. Use snark when appropriate

It’s easy to slap a pride flag on your profile picture and call it a day, right? Wrong. The LGBTQA+ community is (rightly) starting to call out brands who don’t walk the walk. One way to show you actually care is to address the trolls when it feels appropriate.

When Xbox unveiled new pride-themed hardware, a Twitter troll replied, “No one asked for this.” Xbox bounced back with a snappy comeback.

It wasn’t rude or particularly attention-grabbing. But it was enough of a clapback to warrant daps for Xbox — and plenty of attention for their new controller.

7. Comment with class

Again, you don’t have to hold a giant “pick me” sign to engage in critical discourse on Twitter. With sensitive topics, it’s possible to show grace and poise via the art of subtlety.

That’s exactly what the Star Wars Twitter account did to address a toxic faction of its fanbase. The long-running franchise is often targeted by obsessive trolls. With each new release, the account fields nonstop vitriol aimed at actors of color that appear in their projects.

After announcing that The Queen’s Gambit star Moses Ingram had been cast in Obi-Wan Kenobi, they were hit with a flood of toxic discourse. The way they chose to respond is particularly compelling. It addresses racist trolls without platforming their hateful rhetoric.

8. Just be nice

If you haven’t noticed yet, the snarky Wendy’s tone seems to be on the way out in the modern Twitter era. Sometimes, “risk” means daring to be different. And makeup manufacturer Glossier is leading the pack.

They’ve cultivated a kind, friendly space online — and that can really stand out. Glossier’s version of brand comebacks include a gentle, relatable tone and plenty of emojis. They stay in tune with Glossier’s mission while delivering excellent customer care.

9. Go with the flow

Twitter has certainly calmed down as the place for brands to get silly with it. But on TikTok, things can and do get weird.

In a recent master class, user @ramblingsanchez baited the crowd. Their completely innocuous broccoli-eating video shouldn’t have gone viral. But their caption, “A bunch of brand accounts should comment on this for no reason,” made all the difference.

The video’s comment section blew up fast. Brands like Trojan Condoms, lululemon, and even the official TikTok account showed up.

@ramblingsanchez managed to get every social media manager together 🪑 #brandsontiktok

♬ original sound – TellMeMore


10. Come up with your own idea

The @ramblingsanchez TikTok (now removed) was a fun experiment that will go down in history. But the internet moves fast, and fun ideas can quickly feel stale.

Foam dart manufacturers Nerf tried copying the @ramblingsanchez format with diminishing returns. Their TikTok expert told brands to challenge one another to a Nerf duel in the comments. Sadly, it didn’t quite pay off in the same way.


We will just be here creeping in the comments, eating some popcorn🍿 Thanks to @ramblingsanchez for the inspo. #Nerf

♬ Funk Hip Hop Music(814197) – Pavel

Sure, a couple of brands tried their hand in the comments. But the rest of the feed is full of people roasting the video for being, well, tryhard.

Inspired by these brand comebacks? Use Hootsuite to monitor all relevant conversations and engage your audience (with a bit sass, if appropriate). Try it free today.

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By Josiah Hughes

Josiah Hughes is a writer, editor and podcaster based in Montreal. He is both a social media expert and a social media addict.

Read more by Josiah Hughes

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