Your small business does Twitter by the book. You don’t spam your followers, you try to create interesting updates, and every once in a while, you’ll throw in a free download or an online contest to stir up some buzz.
There’s just one problem: it’s not working.
What happens when you do everything by the book only to find that your Twitter following is underwhelmed? If you ask us, the answer is simple: throw the book out. Say goodbye to conventions, get a little weird, and start getting serious about attracting attention on Twitter.
Here are some companies (large and small) garnering attention on Twitter with unusual tactics:
A #PickleHunt on National Pickle Day
Pickles aren't the most glamorous product, but Lynnae's Gourmet Pickles upped their game with a city-wide pickle hunt on National Pickle Day (bet you didn't know that was a real thing!)
Led by owner Lynnae Schneller, the team hid jars of pickles in local businesses and released clues via Twitter every hour.The first person to get to the location and find the jar won a prize pack comprised of goodies from local businesses worth $300-500.
It was so successful that the company received national and local media coverage. There were people running through the streets searching for pickles.
'The big hunt,' as it came to be known in Tacoma, turned out to be great marketing for Lynnae, but also for supporting local businesses. It became an annual event.
Learn from Lynnae's Pickles:
Fun and creative social media contests work.
Twitter stunts can easily connect to physical events.
Social media can be leveraged for small businesses, not just big ones!
DiGiorno Sings #PizzaSongLyrics
Ever think posting some lyrics about pizza could get 2,403 retweets (and counting)? Us either, but DiGiorno has seriously taken it to the next level with their ridiculous, kooky, and hilarious #PizzaSongLyrics campaign.
It's hard to imagine crazier tweets, especially those that are G-rated. None of the Tweets are inappropriate, offensive, or controversial. Some are pretty cheesy, though (har har).
DiGiorno not only got a bit outta control, but promoted these crazy tweets, causing people like us (who didn't even follow DiGiorno until this campaign) to get a good laugh.
Learn from DiGiorno:
Be outta control whacky. It'll get people pumped up.
Act like a kid. Embrace your inner child and keep it G-rated.
Consider spending some money to promote your crazy campaign!
Charmin Encourages You to #TweetFromTheSeat
Twitter options are somewhat limited when you’re a toilet paper brand, but Charmin makes the most of it with its “Tweet from the Seat” campaign.
Don't follow Charmin? The company's Twitter followers are exposed to potty humor on a regular basis with tweets from...well...the toilet seat.
With tweets like “Here’s to number two…” attached to a picture of a coffee cup, Charmin takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the usual big-brand social chatter.
Sometimes, unusual Twitter strategies that differentiate your brand aren’t your number one option. In Charmin’s case, they were number two (harhar).
Let's be real-- who doesn't love a good bathroom joke!?
Learn from Charmin:
Be exciting and relatable, not corporate and boring.
Embrace who you are, even if what you are is toilet paper!
Wash your hands after you #tweetfromtheseat. Please.
The CDC Tweets About Zombies
The Center for Disease Control maintains a professional and helpful Twitter account. But one day, they sent out a tweet asking their followers if they were ready for the Zombie Apocalypse. What’s more: the tweet included a link to a full blog guide to Zombie Apocalypse preparedness.
'People are really dialed in on zombies,' said Dave Daigle, spokesperson for the CDC. 'The idea is we're reaching an audience or a segment we'd never reach with typical messages.'
The result? The CDC website was inundated with traffic, even slowing down loading times. The site actually crashed! The organization generated discussion on Twitter and in its blog comments section, raising awareness of the CDC and its other, more realistic, resources.
Learn from the CDC:
Connect with a new audience with an unexpected campaign.
Use pop culture references and trends to make suprising connections.
Plan your evacuation route in case zombies really do come.
When Weird Doesn't Work: The Story of JCPenney
Kudos to JCPenney for trying something new, but their recent mitten-wearing Superbowl tactic didn't impress anyone.
During the big game, this tweet came out from JCPenney's account:
It wasn't long before the Twittersphere expressed their concern about the brand:
It turned out that JCPenney was trying to promote their Team America mittens with a #TweetingWithMittens campaign. Unfortunately, it fell completely flat. No one was able to connect the mittens with the Tweets, making JCPenney look amateur.
Learn from JCPenney:
Make sure your weird campaign won't cause utter and complete confusion.
Before you start, think of every possible worst case scenario.
Stop #TweetingWithMittens. It won't get you the attention you want.
Making Weird Work For You
What do Lynnae's Gourmet Pickles, DiGiorno, Charmin, and the Center for Disease Control strategies have in common?
Sure, they’re unusual, but there’s more than that. In each case, these organizations defied expectations, abandoned some of the pretense of “professionalism” and had a little fun with their images.
If you want to duplicate their success, you’ll have to think like they did:
Defy expectations. The CDC is usually expected to provide helpful information about disease and health issues—and it often does a good job of that. But it's a government agency-- no one’s expecting them to have so much fun. Yet when the organization let go and embraced its fun side, it attracted more viewers than ever.
Have fun. Most people expect big-time companies to be somewhat skittish about being whacky. Not DiGiorno! It's embraced kid-like humor with a Twitter campaign around pizza lyrics, which relates to people on a deeper level than the usual tweets.
Be polarizing. There is some degree of risk when you break outside the box. People are caught off-guard, and their reaction is either fascination or outright anger. Embrace it! Some people were likely put off by Charmin’s potty humor, but given how many retweets its getting, most don’t seem to mind.
Be your useful self. All the companies stick with their products and services. DiGiorno sells pizza, so the #PizzaSongLyrics are a real fit. If there really was a Zombie Apocalypse, the CDC would get involved. Their zombie advice is good advice for other emergencies, too. Lynnae's Gourmet Pickles is celebrating National Pickles Day!
Be human. The reason these crazy tactics work is because they throw away a corporate attitude and replace it with a human one. These companies embrace the jokes that kids would tell, making followers laugh, cry, and ultimately buy from them.
Hold a contest. Contests like the one from Lynnae's Pickles are great way to get your audience engaged. If you give something away and harness the spirit of fun, you're sure to get some positive attention.
Small Businesses, Proceed with Caution
You should consider using weird and whacky tactics because they can put your small business on the map. They are awesome for garnering attention, but you must proceed with caution.
Use your good judgement, think through all possibilities carefully, and recognize that your crazy campaign might not be as well-accepted as you'd hoped. Always keep your customers in mind. Default to kindness, not controversy. You'll be fine.
Your Turn: What can you do to break out of the normal flow of Twitter chatter and catch people off-guard in a way that surprises and delights them? Tell us!