Twitter’s claim to fame amongst marketers is its ability to make messages, and the accounts behind them, go viral. This all happens when users push that retweet button and your content goes out again and again – with your @username attached to it.
This isn’t what happens on Facebook as it only makes content go viral, and the website behind it. You rarely know how originally shared the content. Using Twitter in this regard comes down to knowing what will actually be shared. What better way is there to tell you what branded content can go viral than by showing you content that has gone viral?
Read on to see the effective tweets themselves, and read my breakdown of why they succeeded.
The best branded tweets and why they went viral
As you’ll see time and time again with this list, virality on Twitter is all about, well, timing. When your timing is off, relying on a bit of wit will also do in a pinch. There are some viral marketing plans that you can make in advance, some of the time you’ll have to wing it!
Arby’s has the Grammy Awards for dinner
This is perhaps the best example of timing on Twitter with branded content that I’ve seen. It was the right brand, with the right logo that matched the most talked about hat, at the right event:
— Arby's (@Arbys) January 27, 2014
Simple, to the point, perfectly witty, and with good hashtag use. That could have been enough on its own as plenty of other brands chimed in to push it through the roof.
Not every tweet can blow up like this with the Producer of the Year at the Grammys, but timing and wit make their mark.
Wendy’s pulls your heartstrings
This can be a very dangerous tweet to send out:
RT for a good cause. Each retweet sends 50¢ to help kids in foster care. #TreatItFwd
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) June 15, 2011
Why? They’re looking to help people who need it. Well an Internet mob can turn on you in a hurry. Remember @KellogsUK’s tweet about feeding hungry kids for each retweet? That went over like a dead, lead filled balloon.
Wendy’s was skating on thin ice here, but the success of the RT speaks for itself. I’d be careful with your language if you want to try a tactic like this.
The Super Bowl is also the Marketing Bowl
Superbowl 48 between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos was one of the biggest disappointments in recent Superbowl memory. Over one hundred millions people tuned in to watch a great game, and millions of those were ready to tweet about all the excitement.
Instead of excitement they were tortured with one of the most one-sided championship matches in all of sports since Mike Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds. This prompted Wild Buffalo Wings to tweet:
Sorry fans, we don’t have a button for this.
— Buffalo Wild Wings (@BWWings) February 3, 2014
They had been working on a TV campaign recently where they had a special button in their restaurants to make games last longer. Everyone had a laugh because that game needed to end sooner!
Not to be outdone was the always funny DiGirono Pizza account. They had a thing going all season where they’d chime in with put downs that always started with “YO” and were in capslock. This one caught on BIG during the game:
— DiGiorno (@DiGiorno) February 3, 2014
Timing and wit won that Super Bowl
A much better contest happened in Super Bowl 47 as the evenly matched Ravens and 49’ers faced off. The game was tightly contested, but the tweets were won by @Oreo when the power went out at the stadium during the game:
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
This should be a lesson to every Twitter marketer out there. You need your best people at their computers, ready to tweet, and ready to have some fun. You won’t get 15,000+ retweets for your average content you spend weeks planning. Spur of the moment, with real-time marketing, is where Twitter shines when it comes to getting you new followers.
Sick burns on Apple for all
Most of the above examples were spur of the moment tweets sent out as soon as they were created. Nokia must had have had this tweet ready in advance. They would have known what Apple was up to ahead of time with the newest iPhone 5c looking suspiciously like something they had already designed:
— Lumia UK (@LumiaUK) September 10, 2013
I’m sure that part of the reason this had astronomical retweets, and brought great brand recognition to Nokia, was Twitter user’s desire for a scandal. Yes, it’s risky to pick a fight with the competition. With the right planning, and a little wink, you may just get away with it. Let’s take one more swing at Apple. The iPhone 6 Plus launch faced some challenges, one of which was the phones bending. @KitKat knows that their fans love snapping their treat in half, and many of their advertising campaigns center around this fact. Out came this tweet:
— KITKAT (@KITKAT) September 24, 2014
Perfectly timed, perfectly funny, and they added a photo for good measure. KitKat and Apple are obviously not competitors, so they have more leeway to tweet this and not look like jerks.
What you can learn from the most successful branded content
First, sit down and make a plan for the Superbowl if you’re an American advertiser! Second, you need a Twitter marketer who’s not only in touch with Twitter’s uses, but also with pop culture. All but one of the above tweets had a pop culture tie-in.
To truly maximize your retweets, and spread your message, you need to tap into the potential of viral cultural happenings.