With the amount of content swirling around social media, it can be hard to make an impression on consumers. In the fast food sector, the steady rise of fast casual restaurants like Chipotle, Shake Shack, Five Guys, and even Panera Bread have made it even more difficult for brands to break through the noise.

There’s still a great role for social media to play, however. Consumers can reach out to a fast food chain, and the chain can respond and engage in dialogue with the consumer. Whether it’s a compliment or a complaint, the chain can respond within seconds. This dialogue creates a connection between the consumer and the brand.

But there are instances in which consumers get a tad… brash. After all, they’re behind a computer screen. What’s the worst that can happen, right?

What’s Your Beef?

Quite a bit can happen, actually. Wendy’s has been a major target of internet trolls lately, and the corporate employee on the receiving end has not been afraid to fire back.

On December 30th, Wendy’s posted this clever tweet to remind consumers that they only use fresh beef:

Then, on January 2nd, “Thuggy D” let the Internet know how he feels about Wendy’s beef:

It was all downhill from there for the ill-prepared Thuggy D. Wendy’s emerged victorious, quickly ending the beef about beef:

Wendy’s was the king of fast food on Twitter…for about two days.

The Bigger the Beef, the Harder They Fall

The fall of the Wendy’s empire started when “@Respek” inquired on Twitter: “Got any memes?” Of course Wendy’s has memes. It’s 2017! Memes are everywhere! However, when a picture of Pepe the Frog dressed up like the famous red-haired mascot was posted in response, it was clear someone made a mistake (the tweet has since been deleted).

Back in September, Pepe the Frog was declared a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League. “Our community manager was unaware of the recent political connotations associated with Pepe memes, and it has since been removed. Since this used to be purely an innocuous meme, he had this fan content saved from a year or two ago,” Wendy’s social media manager explained in an interview with Business Insider.

Social media is lightning-fast, which means brands have to react quickly. Sometimes it pays off, but sometimes it can create a PR crisis. In fact, Wendy’s rapid rise and fall raises the question of whether or not fast food brands should engage with trolls at all over social media. That’s one of the problems with social media; anything a brand says is liable to be misinterpreted.

Denny’s Does it Right

The great thing about the Denny’s Twitter account is, well, everything. The tweets are outlandish and topical, and the offbeat humor provides endless amusement. 

They never respond to other users, and instead focus only on their own bizarre content. They get their fair share of of criticism, but ignore any negative comments. Why?

Denny’s is, at its core, a diner. And diners are down-to-earth establishments. Casual food, casual atmosphere, and casual conversation. You know what kind of people hang out in diners? Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer. And they talk about nothing important. Denny’s is trying to capture the feel of a genuine American diner in their tweets: Irreverent and random thoughts about daily life in America that you can share with your friends, judgement-free.

The zany posts work for them. Erwin Penland, the marketing agency in charge of Denny’s social media presence, has done great things for the brand. A 2015 article from Entrepreneur states that since Erwin Penland took over in 2013, follow and fan growth has grown by 150%. They have seen 1,800-plus average engagement per post. From 2013-2015, Denny’s had a total of more than 900 million social impressions and 15 million engagements.

Whether or not this helps bring in customers remains to be seen. One thing is clear, though. The difference between using your brand’s social media platforms to protect your reputation or fight back against trolls and to simply have fun is astronomical. It’s crucial to know how to use your brand’s message to your advantage.

Advertisements