Over the past couple of years we have seen many situations that have served as a lesson in how Twitter can bestow immediate notoriety on just about anyone. With its instantaneous nature, millions of members and broad global reach it is both an incredible PR tool and an instrument that can wreck a reputation in seconds. And although we have all seen how much Twitter can benefit an individual or a business, there’s no arguing that bad news definitely travels faster and that’s most certainly the case when it comes to trending topics.
The unusual thing about Twitter is that it has very much levelled the reputational playing field, with money, fame or power proving no obstacle to a negative Twitter response, or to someone becoming the subject of gossipy trending. The latest ‘victim’ of this was T-Mobile CEO John Legere who found himself an instant celebrity after he gatecrashed rival company AT&T’s opening party at the annual Consumer Electronics Show and was promptly escorted from the building. Legere managed only 15 minutes at the party before an industry reporter tweeted a photo with him, which triggered the security response directed at Legere. Of course this kind of maverick behaviour instantly set the trending topics on fire and even those who had never heard of Legere before suddenly knew what he had done.
Another ‘incident’ at the show came courtesy of Transformers director Michael Bay who had a very public meltdown at the unveiling of Samsung’s new curved HDTV. Bay was part of the presentation for the new TV but when the auto-cue feeding him his lines failed, rather than try to wing it the director panicked and then simply walked off stage! At which point Michael Bay promptly became a trending topic on Twitter.
What is interesting about both these incidents is that many have questioned how much they actually hurt the brands in question. OK, so there may have been a few bruises on the egos of the two men, Michael Bay in particular, but in terms of gaining attention for Samsung, T-Mobile (and AT&T), these snafus were trending worldwide – something that is the ultimate aim for any serious social media campaign. In reading about Michael Bay’s embarrassing episode, people may also have picked up information on the new Samsung curved HDTV and whilst reading about Legere’s gatecrashing event perhaps some may have come across T-Mobile’s latest promotion, which gives customers cash for switching to the mobile provider from another company.
Of course it might have been different if Legere had brawled with someone drunkenly at the event, or Bay had erupted into swearwords and punched the camera – that would have removed any possible benefit as a result of being damaging reputationally. However, it is worth thinking about what catches the public imagination – and what kind of topics are trend-worthy – when planning a social media strategy and looking at the right way to frame certain campaigns. People don’t generally want to share (and don’t respond to) dry information but if you can introduce imagination, humour, or just the tiniest whiff of something out of the ordinary then this often provides exactly what a topic needs to really take off.