When you’re an unemployed communications student trying to get noticed on the Internet, you tend to get creative about it by default. I learned long ago that getting someone’s attention is not all about you–it should be about the message your recipient wants to hear. This of course takes getting to know your audience through either prior dialogue or background research. But you also have to be strategic–for example, what, if any, type of humor would your audience enjoy? Sometimes this is a more spur-of-the-moment, organic process than your social media strategy typically calls for–but the results can be worth it. Here are a few times that I got the attention of people on Twitter.
I’m a huge fan of The West Wing and Psych, and I think that Dule Hill is fantastic in both. Two years ago, the season premiere of Psych occurred on my birthday, so I decided to tweet Dule and tell him about it in order to get a retweet. Now, Psych is a show that has a rabid fan base and a thriving social media presence–many of the cast members are avid tweeters and they participate in many Twitter Q&As about episode production. They used GetGlue for promos before I had heard of anyone else using it. They ran a “Spot the Pineapple” contest in which fans could tweet when they saw the hidden pineapple in every episode and win prizes. They even used Shazaam, the music discovery app, for access to extra content during episodes. Clearly, I had to write something that would get noticed above all the noise! Because I knew that my intended audience would appreciate humor, I decided to use a few inside jokes from Psych. Here is what I tweeted:
And Dule responded!
I should explain: #ThatsWhatImTalkinAbout is a phrase that Dule’s character, Gus, says a lot. #LavenderGooms is a fake name that Gus’s partner, Shawn, gives him in one episode (Shawn introducing Gus as goofy fake names is a running gag in Psych). And #pineapple refers to the hidden pineapple in every show. With this tweet, I wanted to show Dule that I was a fan of the show, and appreciated his work–hence the specific references to the show in my hashtags. More importantly, I wanted to say something that might put a smile on Dule’s face–as opposed to a run-of-the-mill happy birthday request that a lot of fans ask over Twitter.
When I was applying to Boston University’s College of Communication for my Masters degree, the office of Graduate Student Services put out a Twitter contest for accepted students. Participants had to answer the question of, what program did you apply to and why? After a bit of reflection, I decided that, in order to stand out, my answer could not be your standard response. So, to set myself apart from everyone else, I again decided to use a little humor. Here is my response:
Now, clearly that’s not the reason why I chose to study public relations. But that’s not really the point of the contest, I think. So, again, as long as the setting is appropriate, a little humor can go a long way in your messaging. This tweet won me a bunch of sweet BU COM swag (pictured in the following selfie I tweeted to @BUCOMGrad upon receiving my goodies).
Why yes, I do wear that hat around town.
BuzzFeed’s handle for all its food-related content, @BuzzfeedFood, ran a hashtag game on Twitter around the time of the Oscars last year. The hashtag was #OscarNoms, a play on the shortening of “nomination” as well as the popular onomatopoeia for eating, “Om nom nom!” (Think Cookie Monster). You had to take a movie title and turn it into a type of food. I’m typically not good at these kinds of word games, but for some reason, “Esc-Argo” popped into my head, and I immediately tweeted it–which promptly got a retweet from @BuzzfeedFood. Moral of this story: if you’re a brand sometimes it can be worthwhile to join in on some of these trending hashtags for added exposure. BUT, YOU MUST BE CAREFUL. Make sure you absolutely know what the hashtag really means, and that if you jump on the bandwagon, you are not offending anyone by doing so. Tragedies, or potentially tragic situations–such as hurricanes, political uprisings, and national days of remembrance–inappropriate to make light of. If there’s any questioning, it’s best to play it safe and not participate.
Allen & Gerritsen
This was one of my favorites. In December 2012, Boston-based advertising agency Allen & Gerristen put out an Instagram contest for local students. Participants had to construct an image that visually showed two qualities about themselves, using an ampersand in the description to tie together the two qualities (the ampersand is Allen & Gerritsen’s brand symbol). Again, I knew that I had to choose qualities that set me apart from other people. I chose the fact that I had been a geography bee winner for my class in middle school and the fact that I collect coins:
I was selected as a finalist in the contest, which meant that I got to visit A&G’s Boston office for a networking reception, which was a lot of fun. It’s not everyday that you get to see firsthand a company culture that intimately–especially as a student. On a different note, I’m glad that I have this unique portfolio piece, as well as the story that goes with it. I would highly encourage Allen & Gerritsen to continue running these contests for students.
If you want to be memorable, you have to start being memorable. Find your voice. Use (appropriate) humor. Don’t be just like every other similar brand and blend in–that’s boring. Above all, be authentic. This word is tossed around all the time but it’s true. People want to talk to other people, and when that other person shines through in a brand’s online presence, people are more likely to accept that brand’s messages.