Yesterday I was reminded of my childhood by a series of posts from a colleague in the social media world who decided to draw attention to the Twitter and Facebook efforts of Wimpy UK. Their quarter-pounder and, as I grew, their half-pounder burger became a regular Monday night treat for me as a child, a reward for performing well at swimming lessons. As a result, their inoffensive brand of fast-food and café/diner style eating-out has always held a fond nostalgic sentimentality with me.
The individual in question drew attention to Wimpy's efforts to increase what we have come to call 'vanity metrics', encouraging 'likes', 'shares' and 'retweets. Whilst these practices have now come to be as unpopular as 'clickbait' and regarded as poor practice within our industry, it's not uncommon to see some brands taking their fledgling steps on social media without realising that this can be a big brand faux-pas. Admittedly, the posts also appeared to be 'one-size fits all' being shared on both Facebook and Twitter with little regard for which platform they appeared on or the functionality of each platform, as you can see below.
However, perhaps we could forgive these naive mistakes as let's not forget, Wimpy have only had a presence online since 2012. Where the rest of us social media practitioners have had almost a decade to decide what works for us and to practice our methods, Wimpy are relative newcomers to social media. Let's face it, these little mistakes are harmless, they can be learned from and worked upon. We all had to start somewhere, right? They've clearly got the enthusiasm, they just need a little guidance, which we as professionals should be happy to offer. Or at least, that's what I thought as I read his initial posts on the subject on Linked In.
This guy had other ideas though, and single-handedly began trolling the brand with gusto. Trolling them, even though we could all agree that trolling is perhaps the single-most reviled practice on social media today. His comments on their Facebook page like "Hey, Wimpy the 1980's called and want their road-side cafe food photography back!", have since been removed, whether by Wimpy or himself it matters little. Not content with his little outburst on Facebook, he moved to his Twitter feed, where he enjoys verified status, with further criticism tweeting "What is going on at Wimpy - 'Share'? Do you mean RT?", "It's FAVE', Wimpy. 'FAVE'!" and "Answer: Wimpy's Social Media Strategy..." in response to their post about it being national joke day, asking followers to reply with their best joke to win a Wimpy voucher. Similar posts were also shared on his Linked In feed.
Big brands must get trolled all the time though, right? Of course they do. But probably not by people that claim to be social media experts, people that make a living from helping brands improve their online offerings. Social media has given those of us with a deep understanding of it, great power. But (and I'm quoting Marvel again here, I know) with great power, comes great responsibility. Now I'm not saying that we as professionals need to become online vigilantes, we already have Anonymous for that. But what I am saying is that we are professionals and we should act like it. Instead of ostracizing Wimpy and countless others like them, we should be reaching out to help. We should be setting the example.
None of us are infallible, as this very situation has proved. We are not gods, sitting atop our social media platform mountains, sneering at the mere mortals and trolling them with occasional witty thunderbolts aimed at their feeds. We are not the law when it comes to social media. We are not the Batman, but are actions do define who we are. We are people. They are people. And perhaps it's about time we all started to talk to each other with that in mind, started treating each other properly, instead of like faceless avatars or brands to be derided at will.
So in that spirit, I have already reached out to Wimpy's head office and offered to meet them to discuss what they want to achieve with social media and how I could help them to succeed. I saw the situation as an opportunity to create more business for both of us, not laugh at someone else's mistakes.
What would you do?