What do you do when someone name-drops your brand on the internet? In today’s day and age, you respond in kind, with your tongue firmly in cheek.
This week, both BuzzFeed and Flickr have proven that it’s just as possible for a brand to take back “the conversation” from internet meme artists as it is for that conversation to happen in the first place—turning provocation into self-promotion, and earning them loyal followers in the process.
No less than a day after Jory John posted a column of “Suggested Buzzfeed Articles” to McSweeney’s, poking fun at the often absurd collections of content aggregated by the site, BuzzFeed set out to make the list a reality, including:
- 18 Frightened Tweets About Approaching Peacocks
- 12 Cats That Just Want to Be Left Alone
- The World’s 13 Laziest Salmon
- 84 Things That Aren’t On An Everything Bagel
- 50 Photos of Bill Clinton’s Forehead
Thus, BuzzFeed turned a one-off spoof into an even better joke—and they were grateful for it! Granted, playing along meant embracing the public perception of BuzzFeed as a haven for preposterous internet linkbait, but that’s precisely the point: if part of playing nice on the internet means taking your brand a little less seriously, it’s better to be known for wit than labeled a spoilsport. (Don’t believe me? Just ask Taco Bell.)
The same day, upon hearing that Marissa Mayer was leaving Google become CEO of Yahoo!, many took an opportunity to propose advice, among them venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, ex-Yahoo! employee Sriram Krishnan, and AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher. (Fortunately for Yahoo!, Mayer probably knows better than to take most of it.)
But one single serving site* in particular—dearmarissamayer.com—pleaded on behalf of “the internet” that in her new role, she would work to make beloved photo community site Flickr (a.k.a., the original social network) “awesome again.” And rather than respond with consternation, embarrassment, or worse—nothing at all—a few Flickr employees took it upon themselves to repurpose the self-proclaimed “internet’s” empty plea for awesomeness into a recruiting campaign (emphasis mine):
Dear Internet, Thanks! Come help us make Flickr awesomer! flickr.com/jobs
Replete with a new call-to-action and a healthy dose of nods to the original (hint: view source), Flickr jumped on the opportunity to demonstrate precisely why it’s not yet sunk: easy-going employees, a sense of humor, and the upbeat attitude that’s attracted talent from day one**. It wasn’t a cinch for Flickr to build a new website on whim, but judging by Twitter’s reaction to #dearinternet, it was well worth it.
Yes, today it takes considerable effort for a brand to stay relevant, because thanks to stars and likes, word of mouth spreads faster than ever before. “Success” in social media is fast and fleeting, and it mandates levity, guts and timeliness. But taking a part in your brand’s public perception isn’t a lost cause—in fact, it’s an undertaking rewarded many times over.
Just one word of advice: before you set out to conquer anonymous hordes of customers on social media, beware that the tides of tweets, likes and shares are unrelenting and unpredictable. After all—it’s only Friday.
* “Single Serving Site” is a term coined by Jason Kottke to describe one-page sites with a sole purpose that live at a dedicated domain name. Examples include umbrellatoday.com, isitchristmas.com, and more.
** See also: the official Flickr sport of Faceball.