Internet troll noun: a person who posts controversial, inflammatory or irrelevant messages in an online platform with the primary intent of provoking an emotional or angry response from brands or other users.
If you are active on the internet, and by reading this I am assuming you are, you have likely experienced an internet troll. Until recently, brands have treated these trolls using the same strategy our mothers gave us in 3rd grade: ignore them and they will leave you alone. Brands have mostly provided generic responses, ignored, hidden or deleted these types of messages. Then at the start of 2017, Wendy’s Twitter account decided to be savage back.
A Twitter user accused the fast food giant of lying about using fresh, never frozen beef. Wendy’s began the conversation with a typical, canned corporate response:
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you feel about trolls and public shaming, our troll kept going.
You guessed it. He took the bait and kept going.
Checkmate. The roasting was so savage that the user deleted his Twitter account.
With one encounter the brand shifted the entire tone and voice and response model. I am not sure if this was a planned long-term social media strategy, but the brand still continues to implement this response strategy. What is interesting is the shift to users tweeting with the hope of being roasted by the account.
For Wendy’s, this is a risky proposition as it requires a special mix of mean and funny to pull off gold-winning, savage responses on a regular basis. Also, once you go down this path there is no going back. This is now what users expect from the brand they chose to follow. Should the community manager leave, or take a response too far, Wendy’s could have abandoned its core audience and brand tone and voice for a few days of media coverage, and found itself in tone and voice limbo.
As a full-service agency that focuses on content marketing and social media, we are involved in the strategy and execution in a variety of areas for clients. We help define brands on social through elements like tone and voice and response models. A radical shift of this magnitude is a curious case study… I’m watching to see what happens.
Personally, I love this type of brand honesty. As a digital strategist, it’s my job to push brands to do things in a way that is true to themselves. With the coverage Wendy’s received, brands may consider jumping on a new marketing trend. In the battle between authenticity and trying too hard to fit in, authenticity always stand out. Which one is your social media doing?