4 lessons from brand feuds on Twitter

When brands engage in friendly banter online, their quips can show personality, elicit smiles, and bring in a lot of retweets.

Two hundred million people are active on Twitter.

That’s a lot of eyeballs—and some of them are reading your tweets. Whether you’re updating the world on your brand message or just sharing your latest meal and weekend plans, people are watching. If you are tweeting for a big brand, odds are you’ve got a pretty good chunk of that Twitter audience.

Taco Bell, for example, has more than 384,000+ followers (including me), all reading, judging, and sharing its tweets.

When you think of a Twitter feud, what comes to mind?

Is it a vicious war of words between celebrities, resulting in the ultimate loss of your respect, (looking at you, Donald Trump), or is it just social anarchy? How about when your favorite brands go head to head in 140 characters or fewer?

Here are three examples that show how big brands used humor and vision to interact with followers in real-time, win (or lose) with grace, and most importantly, appear human.

Oreo wins Kit-Kat-Toe

Imagine the surprise when @Laura_ellenxx casually tweeted at Oreo and Kit-Kat, and they actually answered back, spawning this blink-and-you’ll-miss it, awesomely funny mini-war.

Although the interaction spanned two days and could have been timelier, it was a win for both brands. First for Kit-Kat, which did a great job of interacting with its followers and most likely scored a fan for life, and for Oreo, which showed humor and creativity while complimenting its competitor in the face of being challenged.

Now that’s how you feud with grace.

Old Spice throws fire at Taco Bell

In the realm of missed opportunity, take a look at the almost-feud between Old Spice and Taco Bell: The fire-starter (pun intended), was Old Spice posing the question, “Why isn’t Fire Sauce made with real fire?”

And Old Spice’s final, somewhat weak response:

This friendly feud could definitely have gone bigger, and there’s plenty of missed opportunity (and beef-related insults) here, but the response by followers of both brands showed an active, interested following.

It also served to humanize Old Spice and Taco Bell, proving that wit can indeed win you Twitter followers. Even a handful of other brands got involved:

Oreo gets sneaky on AMC

It started last fall, with a simple tweet from Oreo:

And then it got real:

Score one for AMC. The short but hilarious interaction gained thousands of retweets and added publicity, thanks to the witty, forgiving responses on the part of both brands. Again, this is where AMC wins by appearing human to its followers—the theater brand rep could have just as easily tweeted: “We do not tolerate outside food in our movie theaters.” Wouldn’t have been so much fun that way, would it?

So, the moral of the story is, it’s OK for brand reps not to shy away from feuds, as long as they keep these points in mind:

1. Be a good sport.

No one likes a sore loser, and acting like one won’t win you any fans.

2. Respond with grace.

When faced with criticism from other brands—or even a single follower—be it friendly or malicious, responding with wit and grace is a surefire road to a good outcome.

3. Timeliness is key.

Followers don’t want to wait a week for your response. Imagine watching a tennis match that including breaks between serves. The crowd would find something else to do.

4. A human brand is the best kind of brand.

Companies that use humor and friendly banter seem more approachable than ones that feel too corporate or stone-faced.

Now, who’s next up for a duel?

Brittany Siminitz is the marketplace manager for JCKonline. A version of this article originally appeared the Engage blog.

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