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Wendy’s proves Sweet and Sour sells on Social Media4 min read

4 min read

There are a lot of different reasons why businesses invest in social media – for customer service, event promotion, and connecting with your audience, to name just a few. But insulting your audience and intentionally antagonizing your competitors? That’s not something you see on many social media strategies. Nonetheless, for one US fast food chain, it’s a strategy that’s working big time.

Wendy’s gets sassy

It’s not uncommon to see snarky comments and sarcasm on Twitter, but it’s rare that you see it so unabashedly in an official corporate feed. And yet, here is Wendy’s, the US burger joint, throwing shade left and right – not only at their competition, but also at potential customers.

Maybe attacking your competition on Twitter isn’t all that “outside the box”, but Wendy’s turns up the grill and roasts members of the public – and even their own potential customers – from time to time. The results are both shocking and hilarious.

No doubt, this is a risky strategy – and sometimes I wonder if the corporate heads at Wendy’s are aware of what’s really happening on their Twitter account. But here’s something to remember about the current climate of social media: people who use social media regularly have seen it all. Are there pitfalls and mistakes businesses can make on social media? Oh yes. But does that mean you should only play nice? Well, that depends on your brand – but Wendy’s has shown us that even a customer-service oriented business can win when the claws come out.

In fact, Wendy’s viral tweets have started an entire genre of fan art, which has been popping up all over platforms like Reddit, Imgur and Facebook.

Take one look at mentions of Wendy’s on Twitter, and it’s easy to find people who are begging Wendy’s to roast them. That’s the kind of customer engagement that can’t be bought – you can only get it through clever writing, interaction, and rapid-fire posting.

Wendy’s sweet side

Their incredible customer engagement has opened up many other opportunities for Wendy’s to make a name for itself. And whoever is running this genius account saw a golden opportunity in this tweet:

And thus the hashtag #NuggsForCarter was born. With Wendy’s acknowledgment and Carter Wilkerson’s own clever social media skills, the 16-year-old managed to break a record – this became the most retweeted tweet ever.
That means he beat out Ellen DeGeneres’ famous celebrity selfie from 2014. Sorry, Ellen:

Of course, Wendy’s provided the kind of commentary that would be expected:

There’s no way Carter would have been able to break that record if Wendy’s Twitter wasn’t already in the spotlight. His plea for fried chicken came at the crest of the Wendy’s wave – and aside from the donation, the promotion for Wendy’s was pretty much completely free.

How to channel Wendy’s

So, what can be learned from Wendy’s social media (mis)behaviour? The big takeaway should be this: it’s okay to have fun, even if you are button-up business. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the current social and political climate – let’s face it, there are a lot of scary things out there in the world – but fun and funny works. Interacting with a business on social media shouldn’t have to be mundane, formal, or boring.

While you still want to use social media for practical reasons such as answering important questions and sending out information, remember that brand awareness can only happen if you do something different. You don’t need to go as far as Wendy’s has, but your Twitter feed (and other platforms) should have its own voice and ideally one that is more casual, friendly, and approachable than the one you use for website content.

What Wendy’s has done with both sides of its current strategy is establish a strong voice – snarky, witty, and sharp-tongued – while also showing its audience that it’s all in good fun. They’re not afraid to put their money (or nuggets) where their mouth is.

If your current advice to your social media agency is to follow your brand guidelines for posting on social, then it may be time to revisit your strategy. Your social media voice, tone, and style should not be a carbon copy of what you use for on-site or even blog copy. Instead, you want your social media voice to be recognizable but crafted specifically for social media.

Try something different. Give personal responses. Try a tongue-in-cheek joke for once; you won’t know what will happen until you give it a go.