Wendy’s Social Media – from Sweetheart to Screw-up

 In Make or Break, Marketing

To say that your company should be on social media is the ultimate understatement. Social media is a fast, grassroots way to connect with your customer (or potential customer). Whether it’s product marketing, promoting blog content, or pushing special offers, social media marketing is a “must” in the marketing arsenal of any B2B or B2C company.

Planning a Brand Voice

The first step to undertaking a successful social media strategy is to be exceptionally clear on your brand’s messaging. Would a retail bank converse with its customers super informally on Facebook? Not likely. They have to maintain the image of trustworthiness and security (since they are keeping your money, after all). Likewise, would a hospital Snap patients IRL (in real life)? Not likely (if they want to avoid a lawsuit!).

Setting the content for what your brand will communicate is one-half of the equation. The other is to know the language and tone of how your brand “speaks” – and to be able to execute it regardless of which staff member is manning the social media console. Setting a guideline for the words, phrases, and style a brand communicates helps to get team members aligned and protects your brand’s persona.

Managing Your Social Media Presence

While it is often assumed that social media management can be tasked out to an intern or other junior employee, it is critical consider the impact of such a decision on your business. Here are some reasons why.

Playful Tones

Taking a more playful tone with your social media posts can humanize and energize your brand’s presence. But humor or sauciness can also open you up to critique very easily, which is why your company has to be prepared to deal with any backlash in an appropriate way. Wendy’s gained some notoriety a few months ago with both positive and negative ways it dealt with social media trolls.

It all began with this fun and friendly post about their fresh hardly frozen beef patties. Great, on-brand for the millennial favorite burger joint.


Wendy's social media management highs.But then it quickly escalated into a verbal beat down with a troll.

Real-Time Virality

Clever quips and responses, particularly to customer service issues, can strike like lightning – for the good and the bad. In this instance, responding to the “too cool” beef patty post, a troll claimed Wendy’s uses frozen patties – an accusation that resulted in back-and-forth sparring with Wendy’s eventually calling the user an idiot for having forgotten the difference between a freezer and a fridge.

Wendy's social media customer response strategy

While this encounter may have started relatively on-brand at the start, the tone of the responses started to deteriorate into more “confrontation” rather than simple sass. There’s a fine line between being cheeky and offensive, particularly when such conversations get picked up by mainstream media and the social media universe. It’s likely that this exchange occurred with a marketing professional at Wendy’s head office or their agency (not an intern), which goes to show that it can be all too easy to deviate from pre-approved brand norms.

Wendy's social media downfallThe digital immediacy of social media makes it an incredibly powerful tool that can build your credibility and presence at warp speed – and just as easily destroy it. Handing the power of that immediacy to a young intern who has to plan, execute, and respond to customers or trolls might just inspire you to revisit your social media marketing needs and hire accordingly.

Recovering from a Blunder

If you find yourself in the middle of a social media blunder, fear not – you can recover. Lock down your publishing points and revisit your content calendar. Build your brand voice documentation if you don’t have it yet – or talk to us about helping you out. While it may be perceived that social media is an “easy” communication channel that can be treated more casually, the magnitude of a misstep can ripple beyond your immediate realm of fans and followers all too quickly.


For more, here’s AdWeek’s blow-by-blow.

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