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Corporate Twitter Wars: When Brands Banter, Consumers Win

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Watching celebrities and talking heads duke it out publicly via social media has become a sometimes ugly (but most of the time hilarious) spectator sport that is commonplace in today’s digital age.

With “Twitter wars” breaking out left and right, it’s hard to ignore the growing trend – and lately, more and more brands are getting in on the fun. One example of this is a recent exchange between our client Oreo and AMC Theatres.

It all started with a simple tweet from Oreo:

To which AMC Theatres responded:

Which spurred:

And then this happened:

The brief brand-to-brand spat was a quick, yet significant, win for both parties, as the exchange garnered thousands of re-tweets from the respective communities. As the brands’ personalities shone through, their humorous back-and-forth resonated with followers – and drew some added publicity, too.

As community managers we talk a lot about bringing a brand’s personality to life via social – and we do this through things like creating a social tone of voice and adhering to social copywriting best practices. Our job, put simply, is to express a brand’s characteristics in a conversational way.

Brand-to-brand conversations, where appropriate, achieve this very objective, and then some. These types of encounters allow us to interact in a way that humanizes our brands by treating fellow brands like people, too. So, what does it take for brands to pull this off?

Real-time agility. Responding in a timely manner is key. The Oreo-AMC exchange was a brief interaction, but it resulted in more than 2,000 re-tweets. The conversation would not have had the same entertainment factor had it occurred across a longer time frame, as part of the excitement was following the brands’ responses in near real time.

An understanding of your audience. Listening to the conversations going on in your community, and become a student of your audience. If your community is talking about a “friendly” (non-competitive) brand in conjunction with yours, engaging that brand in a playful manner could be a strategically good move to further drive relevant conversations. Tweeting at a brand your followers do not or would not associate with often serves little value and could even lead to a PR nightmare.

Creativity. Out-of-the-box thinking is crucial. Whether you’re offering up a clever pun, sharing a funny photo or buying a trending topic to amplify reach, the creative must be on-voice, fully embracing the brand’s personality throughout. Creativity with respect to wit and humor also applies here. People have come to expect conversational messaging from brands within social, but an added layer of humor will often surprise and delight your audience.

Corporate compliance. Buy-in from the brand team goes a long way. Internal trust fosters confidence and allows a brand and its community management team to freely express the brand’s personality and voice through organic interactions. Agencies and brands can get on the same page early by agreeing upon a social tone of voice, which can then be used as a guidepost for how to respond when unexpected opportunities arise.

Now that you know the HOW, it’s time to explore the WHY. Here are some reasons why brands should consider partaking in more brand-to-brand conversations:

They foster authenticity. As community managers, we understand the value of creating content that genuinely interests our audience. Humanizing a brand’s voice is less about marketing and more about being personable, which then leads to garnering more engagement and awareness. Conversations amongst brands bring an authenticity that is both unique and relatable to your community.

They allow you to show off the brand’s personality. With all the marketing and advertising clutter facing consumers these days, standing out with a strong brand personality and voice is becoming more and more valuable. The stronger a brand’s personality is, the more likely it will be to engage audiences. Brands should give their social media teams the freedom to deviate from business language and corporate identity, which can come off as alienating or fabricated in digital.

They can help you expand your reach. Similar to Facebook’s Partner Sponsored Stories, these co-branded opportunities are proving synergistic for both parties involved. Aligning your brand with another brand that shares similar characteristics (or even a friendly competitor) is a great way to cross-promote across various audiences and broaden your reach. Similar to offline co-marketing opportunities, brands can use social conversations to showcase complementary products and engage new communities in a way that is natural and doesn’t feel like blatant advertising.

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Given the time and effort dedicated to defining a brand’s social tone of voice, it makes sense for marketers to use that voice effectively – and one way to do this is to make the most of opportunities to engage other brands across social communities. By capitalizing on borrowed equity – when appropriate – brands will be able to showcase an authentic, playful side and, by doing so, reach entirely new audiences online.

So brands, what are you waiting for? Start talking to each other.