HBO television host and Daily Show alum John Oliver took some pointed shots at brands on Twitter this Sunday, criticizing several specific brands, and Corporate America in general, for trying to cash in on touchy trending topics. Kevin Shively explores this topic futher.
It’s become common practice for brand marketers on Twitter to “newsjack” popular topics and hashtags, cashing in on the influx of traffic, even when it isn’t appropriate.
Oliver condemned this type of marketing, calling for more responsibility from brands, telling corporations that Twitter is “a cocktail party” and that they don’t belong there, so they should act responsibly. He even provided a “pledge” for brands who agreed with his sentiment.
You can watch the video clip here. Please note excessive swearing and controversial content.
That was Oliver’s point. There are many ways to engage and grow your audience on Twitter. Trying to leverage these more serious conversations has more potential to backfire than the good it presents.
Look companies, your silence is never going to be controversial. No one will ever go, ‘I can’t believe it. Skittles didn’t tweet about 9-11 yesterday, they must support terrorism. I’m never eating them again.’
– John Oliver, Last Week Tonight
What Oliver’s Segment Can Teach Us
It would be easy for a brand marketer to get upset by Oliver’s lecture, but that misses the underlying value of his rant. Oliver and his team brilliantly pulled off a strategic Twitter campaign as a brand without appearing inauthentic, disrespectful, or tacky.
As marketers, it’s our job to think this way. We may not have TV shows to kick off our campaigns, but we’re in this line of work because we’re creative and resourceful. Piggybacking on tragic, difficult, and personal conversations is a risky tactic that doesn’t add a lot of value.
Meanwhile, Last Week Tonight created a unique experience that encouraged other high profile users to help promote for them. As a brand, this should be the focus, and a basic sense of logic should be used when interacting with a topic.
On Twitter, we follow and engage with brands for the experience they provide (and because we love their products), not because they’re able to jump into every random conversation on the web. Focus on your brand experience, and always be cautious when an organic opportunity presents itself. You’re responsible for protecting your entire brand image, and maintaining your audience’s trust. Don’t take that lightly.