I read an interesting article in the news this week on a brand that had been hijacked on Twitter as part of a social media experiment. Shippam’s Paste is a long forgotten British sandwich spread whose online presence was as large as one page on one company’s house of brands website. Ed Jefferson, a London based marketer, decided to see what would happen if he tried to run a company’s Twitter feed purposely incompetently. He took on the persona of Ben the social media intern and began tweeting about the brand. The result was astounding. The account went from 0 to 9,000 followers in less than a month, the hashtag #paste trended across the UK and public outrage ensued when Princes informed Twitter of the fake account and had it taken down.
There is a lot that can be said about this case. Some of the news articles that I have read have chosen to focus on the brandjacking that occurred and the implications for businesses. For me the more interesting topic is what can companies learn from the Shippam’s rebirth through social media.
Cut through the noise– As Ed himself puts it companies should be using social media for things other than posting links to press releases. With so many brands with Twitter feeds not providing anything unique they are filtered out by the user as noise. Ben the affable intern grabbed users attention because he provided a different feed and approach than the professionally crafted tweets provided by most companies.
Be likeable– Ben provided stories about what was going on in the office his life and quirky responses to customer questions. His personality humanized the brand and people felt like they could better connect with it. All too often it is forgotten that this is the purpose of social media.
Don’t try to control what is said about your brand– Since Ben was a joke, there was a timeline to how long it would last. However, Shippam’s stepped in to close the Twitter account and created a backlash. Traditionally companies have tried to control what is said about their brands in the public domain. What would have been better in this situation would be to monitor what was being said and ride the publicity wave.
Ben says in one of his tweets “I am here to engage with conversations, optimise brand awareness among social targets and let’s remember to have fun!” Shippam’s worked because the focus was on the fun.