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Beyoncé released her video for Formation on the day she was set to appear in the half time show of the Super Bowl, and she announced her world tour in a super bowl ad. No wonder people were talking about the song, which had people stopping their cars on the side of the road when it was released, just to give it a first listen. A few things are name-checked in the song, including Red Lobster, and suddenly they found themselves trending on Twitter. Everyone was chatting about Red Lobster, so what would the brand say in response?
8 hours after the chatter began, Red Lobster chimed in:
"Cheddar Bey Biscuits" has a nice ring to it, don't you think? #Formation @Beyonce
Oh no. That didn't go over well at all. Red Lobster was encouraged to "fire ur agency. Then fire everyone who hired them", told "y'all need consultants" and generally mocked. Community Managers like April Davis concluded "that response was lame" when Red Lobster tried to save the situation with another tweet "You try to bake Cheddar Bay Biscuits and tweet at the same time! #harderthanitlooks #Formation". Red Lobster was told "just stop. You tried" and "another trash tweet. Why are you still employed?", among the many "just don't" gif's thrown their way. Someone in the thread concluded "you need a new young media consultant", but I'm not so sure that's the solution.
Clearly the pop-culture moment that Red Lobster found themselves caught up in was a hot topic in a very specific subset of twitter, young is not the requirement to fit into subcultures, but having observational skills is. I've already argued it's not your age it's what you do. Understanding that this was a subculture phenomena on Twitter would be the first step, and sometimes the best thing for a brand to do is let people have their fun without joining in the conversation. The key to being an active brand on social media is to know the brand and the brands values very well first and foremost. If you can't be signifyin' like Blacktwitter, or rap all gravel-voiced sexy like Beyoncé, maybe you shouldn't.
There's those who use twitter to shout links about their pet cause to the void, while others have joined in various communities that have their own shitposting language, etiquette and stars. Navigating through these crowds when suddenly caught in a trending topic is a bit like making it home to Coney Island when you're The Warriors.
The social media mavens who convinced us that every brand needed to be on every channel out there were very smart to do so, as that ensured someone young might get a job they just created. Not only that, they made social media part of their job, and now there's a pre-requisite that you have to understand the culture, the jargon, the jokes, the memes and each subtwitter out there. We've come a long way from when Rackspace found complaining clients on Twitter and helped them, which first perfectly into their brand ethos, and we're now living in an era where twitter subcultures clash with each other on the daily. The problem is, even young people grow up, and not everyone enjoys working 24/7. You can have legal and creative teams on the ready for anything 365 days a year, just to pounce on cultural happenings that fizz out quicker than pop rocks in a kids mouth, or you can take a step back and remember what Bill Bernbach said.
"We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it. We are so busy listening to statistics we forget we can create them."
Let Twitter have their Bey-driven Red Lobster moment. Be happy you trended, but sometimes you should just leave Twitter alone. Your time and money spent on this channel has not given a return on investment yet, unless you're Oreo. The Social media network has grown increasingly hostile, thanks to poor choices of anti harassments partners, and the cliques that bubble on it are just that: cliques. With Twitter changing the timeline, making our friends retweet things we tweeted a year ago, allowing mass-blockings that impair communication between innocent parties, and pushing you to buy ads every day for "reach" it's a mystery why brands still hang around.