[dropcap]C[/dropcap]apitalism is evil and corporations are everywhere, including beloved social media forums like Twitter and Tumblr. From billboards to television ads to upscale shopping malls, there are never-ending reminders from companies to buy their stuff that will make us look slimmer, be stronger, smell better. . . basically corporations think we need to become a kind of self-indulgent superhuman.
Corporations are also worming their way into the realm of social media. But sometimes, they try to venture out of the advertising of their products and attempt to relate to their consumers as people. I use the word “attempt” with emphasis. These efforts are often done in poor taste, and leave buyers feeling mildly to extremely uncomfortable.
The Internet Uncle
You know that wildly inappropriate uncle you have at the dinner table? The one who says things that everyone disagrees with? Who uses racial slurs and justifies them? Who most likely voiced his support for Donald Trump during discussions about the presidential election? He may be an accomplished businessman or been in a career field for thirty years, but he is a certified asshole. Corporate Twitter is that uncle in Internet form, inducing cringeworthy moments when companies attempt to comment on current events and issues.
For instance, the Twitter hashtag, “#WhyIStayed,” was used as a powerful tool for survivors of domestic violence to provide a voice on the complicated nature of their experiences and how they couldn’t just leave abusive relationships. But of course, company DiGiorno Pizza decided to use this hashtag in a tweet that read, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” Not only did DiGiorno discount the experiences of survivors by using the hashtag to promote their products, they did so in poor taste. As a result, they received backlash from the media and the public due to their venture into Twitter trends.
There is also the fact that corporations keep interjecting on online conversations that they have no business in being a part of. Some examples include the Twitter account of PopChips, who tweeted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that he was an “eternal poptimist,” and Cinnabon recently tweeted a tribute in ill taste for the late Carrie Fisher, saying that she “had the best buns in the galaxy.”
Now, I am actually someone who usually loves puns and witty phrases (and make them only to be met by groans from my friends), but even I have to draw the line at the appropriate times to use them. At the end of the day, these tweets are eyeroll-worthy, only prompting anger and complaints from the audiences of these accounts. This prompts of the question: why do corporations even engage in these conversations in the first place? Masquerading behinding an online profile, these companies pretend to care about people and movements the way a human would — all for the sake of manipulating us into caring about their product.
A cocktail of concerning online behaviour
While the main goal of a corporation is to make a profit, in order to accomplish that they need to gain recognition for their brand. In the age of the Internet, going viral is equivalent to gaining recognition, and while that recognition can come in the form of negative backlash, it is still recognition nonetheless. Internet culture has ensured that the most shocking statements will receive plenty of attention, and these inappropriate tweets ensure that the brand’s name is getting out there.
TV personality John Oliver compared Twitter to a cocktail party, the kind where everyone is having detailed conversations about events, and friends and strangers can meet and chat. He then went on to say that corporations don’t belong in these conversations, and used the exaggerated example of Tony the Tiger bursting in with his slogan, “It’s grrreat!” in the middle of a conversation about abortion to illustrate his point.
Corporate Twitter Done Right
Of course, there are also hilarious ways that corporate Twitter accounts gain notoriety. The main example of this is the blessing that is Wendy’s Twitter account. Answering customer inquiries with off-the-charts levels of sass, the fast food chain does customer service like no other. Somebody tweeted at them asking what to do if there was no Wendy’s in their area; they replied with the concise answer of, “Move.” The account has also engaged in online banter with fast food rivals McDonald’s and Burger King, describing the former with the picture of a trash can and calling out the latter for not serving edible food.
The blatant honesty and rivalry on Wendy’s Twitter account is refreshing, as it isn’t veiled behind advertising practices that try and emotionally manipulate us. It also gives the brand an added depth that makes it stand out from other corporations on Twitter, and promotes audience engagement by responding to customer inquiries with pop culture references such as Hamilton or Kim Kardashian gifs. Regardless what one may think about their food, Wendy’s does corporate Twitter right.
Corporations sell things to the public, and they should stick to selling things to the public, even online. They shouldn’t be using current events to sell their products unless they are served in the form of lighthearted memes or with copious amounts of sass. Simply put, corporations should stick to just selling us shit.