Talk about a big win, on and off the court.
During March Madness, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the 16th seed in the NCAA tournament, beat the University of Virginia, the number one seed, in an historic upset (sorry to all you Hoos out there). But that wasn’t UMBC’s only victory of the night.
Basketball fans were glued to their TV screens, but plenty were keeping a close eye on Twitter, too. Zach Seidel, the manager of the @UMBCAthletics account, hadn’t planned content for the unlikely victory — but he did know that the best Twitter accounts talk like real people, crack jokes, engage in conversation, and offer a fun commentary to real life as it happens.
A tweet like the above is the kind of thing that might raise the blood pressure of a staid brand, but it’s exactly what earned the Twitter account 35,000 new followers in a single day. So when the account tweeted this on-message post, it had a whole new audience learning about the school:
We work with organizations to be smart about capitalizing on the energy and attention they may be receiving, or getting on people’s radar when they have something clever and meaningful to say about something in the news.
On the other side of this spectrum, Snapchat made a similar wager after a crisis — and lost big. In the wake of plummeting stock value after Kylie Jenner tweeted what was, in effect, a preemptive obituary of the app, Snapchat ran the following advertisement:
The backlash was immediate and overwhelming. While Kylie Jenner’s tweet did directly lead to the company’s stock value dropping more than 6% in one day, wiping more than a billion dollars from the company’s market value, it didn’t do lasting damage to the brand. If anything, their users felt bad for them — and while the share price didn’t entirely recover, it did creep back up.
Making light of domestic violence, however, is not the way to win the hearts of your fans. After the above ad came to light, Snapchat lost much of what good will it had left, Rihanna condemned the ad, and, unsurprisingly, share price plummeted again.
What UMBC did was, in one way, a riskier move — the social media manager essentially went rogue and posted completely unvetted content. Snapchat, on the other hand, likely went through more of a standard approval process, concepting, designing, and promoting a digital display ad. One lesson to draw from UMBC’s success and Snapchat’s failure is simply the fact that making a joke of violence against women is never appropriate (and any brand that hasn’t already learned that lesson should learn it immediately). Assuming, though, that most people wouldn’t even consider making that kind of mistake, there’s another lesson to draw here: UMBC’s off-book tweets worked because Seidel, the social media manager, considered his audience first, and styled his content to suit their tastes and desires. The folks over at Snapchat quite clearly did not take audience reaction into consideration at all.