What B2B marketers can learn from Wendy’s’ social media strategy

At the risk of disrespecting Carter Wilkerson, you probably haven’t heard of him—-assuming you have heard of him––because you’re a member of his thriving and expansive social circle. Carter Wilkerson is the proud poster of one of the most liked, retweeted and replied-to tweets since the birth of Twitter in 2006. The wording of the 16-year-old’s tweet, which he sent on 5th April, went like this: ‘Yo @Wendys how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?’ Moments after Carter had hit ‘tweet’, the American fast-food chain had replied: ‘18 Million’. The rest, as they say, is history. Carter’s screenshot of the exchange has been liked 841,422 times, retweeted 3,266,678 times and replied to 33,000 times. #NuggsforCarter has been trending. Amazon, Microsoft and other major brands, sensing a chance for some free advertising, have got involved.

In hindsight, the frankly ridiculous popularity of Carter’s tweet seems entirely predictable. All Carter wanted was some free nuggets (don’t we all) and Wendy’s saw an opportunity to communicate a little humour and humanity, which isn’t, by the way, uncharacteristic of their Twitter ‘personality’: Wendy’s’ social media strategy is distinctly uncorporate. On Singles Awareness Day, Wendy’s tweeted ‘Hot and juicy singles in your area’ along with a picture of a cheeseburger. In response to a man’s request for a new profile picture, they photoshopped a Wendy’s burger onto his neck. They get involved in Twitter wars about fresh ingredients.

A human approach

There’s much to glean from all this. Wendy’s have the advantage of being a huge company with a 50-year history, which grants them a certain audience size whatever they do. But that said, much of their popularity is due to the approach taken by the woman Mashable have dubbed the company’s ‘sass master’ who, believe it or not, was hired after being trolled by the Wendy’s’ VP of Advertising. The company doesn’t play by any of the unspoken rules of brand social media strategy and engagement, and define their voice as a ‘challenger with charm’, which gives it room to interact with others in an assertive way so long as it’s also cheeky. In B2B marketing, where social media has less effect, companies can – and, more often than not, need – to do more to make themselves known. Wendy’s’ approach might be a little too acerbic for the tastes of most of these companies, but it could benefit businesses to take a more human approach to their social strategy.

B2B marketing agencies often seem to be stuck in the habit of treating platforms like Twitter as a news service, which is probably why so much of their content has all the personality of a toothbrush. Their social content is generally riddled with jargon and detached in tone. Peruse their list of followers and you’ll tend to find that they’re only interested in interacting with mainstream publications and other brands (all of whom are, almost always, just as detached as they are). They neglect to look outside themselves when they create content, so when they do tweet it’s as if they’re standing on a platform, shouting into the ether.

In contrast, Wendy’s and others tend to treat their social channels as places for conversation. Accordingly, they cater their posts to the listener, and appreciate the long-term benefits of talking to individuals who may not appear to have an immediate or tangible benefit to their business. (Never forget that the junior team member who tweets you might just be the one doing the research next time their CEO is making a buying decision). These businesses recognise that media like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are tools for demonstrating their values and their unique character.

If Carter’s tweet reaches its target, a year’s supply of nuggets can’t cost Wendy’s much more than $500. The 18 million retweets, however, could save them hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising. And that’s to ignore the benefits of any future television appearances or other forms of coverage. Not a bad return on investment for a two-word tweet.

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