I was watching CNN the evening of January 3, 2017, when The Ridiculist segment aired on Anderson Cooper 360°. Much to my amazement and delight, I witnessed Anderson Cooper and Frank (a member of the studio crew) re-enact a twitter feud that had taken place the day before between Wendy’s social media manager and twitter user Thuggy D.
Thuggy D had taken exception to a tweet touting Wendy’s claim that their beef was never frozen. The ensuing exchange between Thuggy D and Amy Brown, Wendy’s Social Media Manager, was not only re-enacted on CNN, but was covered extensively by online media outlets like Mashable, Mediaite, The Daily Dot, Forbes.com and more.
Right after the segment aired, I went online and searched for @Wendys, hoping to get a better sense of how a fast food chain’s social media account had achieved CNN status. It was immediately apparent that Wendy’s twitter account actively engaged with their followers in real-time, using a very distinctive voice. In an interview with Tripti Shrivastava, blogger for Simply Measured, Amy Brown describes that voice as follows:
“Interacting with our audience can be tricky, especially when fielding a high volume of requests and when trying to balance our engagement strategy with our customer care presence. For us, it’s important to remember who we are and what we’re trying to communicate — what’s our brand’s voice and purpose? The Wendy’s voice is a ‘challenger with charm,’ for example, which means that even when we’re shooting back a sassy comment, it’s with a smile and a wink. Having a strong sense of who our brand is and what we should sound like ensures that we’ll come across consistent in our communications, whether we’re handling a restaurant-specific complaint or gently roasting some of our followers.”
The digital mic drop that ended the twitter exchange with Thuggy D was followed by another epic clap back the next day, when @Wendys posted a pic of a garbage can in response to the tweet “@Wendys, can you find me the nearest McDonalds?”
These interactions not only evoked a plethora of props to the social media mastermind at Wendy’s, they resulted in increased social media engagement with customers. In the days and weeks that followed, people begged @Wendys to “roast” them, and posted numerous tweets like the following from @maggiemadrid on Jan 23: “Craved chicken nuggets for the first time in 5 years after reading @Wendys tweets. Now that is good social media.”
According to Jayson DeMers, contributor at Forbes.com, Wendy’s cheeky approach to social media begs two key questions. In his article What Your Business Should Know Before Imitating Wendy’s Twitter Feed, DeMers asks: Does this “bold move from an otherwise docile brand” really benefit the Wendy’s brand? And can other brands benefit the same way?
His answer to the first question is a qualified yes. “Now sitting with 1.2 million followers, and with individual tweets getting upwards of 10,000 shares and 30,000 likes, Wendy’s is in a great spot—at least for now.”
His answer to the second question? Possibly. Although DeMers feels there are several pros to this approach – including visibility, persuasion and brand appeal – he also feels there are “some major downsides and the potential for this to blow up in Wendy’s face.” He cites the danger of going “one joke too far”, when “all it takes is one well-intentioned but poorly planned joke to completely wreck your brand’s reputation.”
As a matter of fact, @Wendys narrowly avoided a twitter meltdown by posting a Pepe the Frog meme (altered to sport red pigtails) in response to the tweet “Got any memes?” In recent years, Pepe the Frog has been adopted as a mascot by the alt right segment of the white supremacist movement. Almost immediately, the tweet was deleted and the following explanation posted: “Our community manager was unaware of the recent evolution of the Pepe meme’s meaning and this tweet was promptly deleted.”
Tripti Shrivastava states that Wendy’s was “able to avoid Twitter’s focus on it by quickly accepting their mistake and pleading ignorance. Sometimes owning up to your actions goes a long way.” Apparently, Thuggy D agrees. Although he initially deleted his account in the wake of his twitter feud with @Wendys, he reinstated the account shortly after, tweeting a pic of a freshly purchased Wendy’s meal with the hashtag #respect.
Lessons for Others
Using social media channels like Twitter to post promotional announcements, thank customers, and respond perfunctorily to complaints is not enough to truly engage customers and attract new ones in a major way. This is especially true when it comes to a younger demographic with a vast array of social media inputs and short attention spans. Being disruptive can break through and garner a significant amount of attention – including from mainstream media outlets – as evidenced by Wendy’s “epic week on twitter” described in this case study.
To be successful in this regard, however, businesses must have a strong understanding of their brand’s voice and its purpose, as well as the customers they want to engage. They also have to be prepared to commit the resources required to interact with their customers in real-time – seizing unexpected opportunities when they present themselves, and initiating damage control in what can be a volatile environment.
“Roasting” your customers on Twitter may or may not be the right approach for engaging them with your brand. But novelty and humour appear to go a long way on social media. If you can find a way to embrace these traits in a manner that is consistent with your brand’s identity, you may just find your message being broadcast by Anderson Cooper on CNN.
The Wendy's Company
Industry: Fast Food
Name of Organization Contact: Amy Brown, Social Media Manager
Authored by: Anna Borenstein
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
The Wendy’s Company (2017). @wendys twitter feed. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/wendys
Shrivastava, T. (2017). 5 Findings from Wendy’s Epic Week on Twitter. Retrieved from http://simplymeasured.com/5-findings-from-wendys-epic-week-on-twitter/#sm.000016fbdq89kje67rr4rt0lhl0jk
Gallucci, N. (2017). Behold: The sass master behind Wendy’s Twitter. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2017/01/05/sassy-wendys-social-media-manager/#ocUcglaHPiqN
Eisenberg, D. (2017). The Wendy’s Twitter Account is Owning Everyone Today. Retrieved from http://www.mediaite.com/online/the-wendys-twitter-account-is-owning-everyone-today/
Covucci, D. (2017). Meet the woman behind that viral Wendy’s Twitter burn. Retrieved from http://www.dailydot.com/unclick/wendys-twitter-burn-interview/
DeMers, J. (2017). What Your Business Should Know Before Imitating Wendy’s Twitter Feed. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2017/01/17/is-wendys-winning-or-losing-with-its-twitter-roasting-streak/#684168263e82
Anti-Defamation League (2017). Hate on Display – Pepe the Frog. Retrieved from http://www.adl.org/combating-hate/hate-on-display/c/pepe-the-frog.html#.WKuqmG8rKUk