Timing is everything.

Written by Franck Bernard

When comedians imitate people or events for the sake of comedy it usually refers to fresh events or shall we call them: “buzz” events. Taking advantage of a situation to promote an agenda is not a new concept. Well, by doing so, it is easy to become an Internet phenomenon with only a few clicks and a great idea with the reach social media grants its user.

Some brands (even some non-profits) are masters at doing it on their social media platforms. And it pays off. However, trying to be trendy and to jump on any event can also ruin your reputation. There is no formula, only trial and error. But good taste and a good execution will rarely let you down.


  • The person in charge of Oreo’s social media took a bold initiative and tweeted this picture during the Superbowl’s blackout. It was an instant hit and got a lot of international attention in real time, and afterwards. It’s a great example of leading and following your guts. It would be surprising to hear that this community manager called his/her supervisor to get approval for this. It was a great judgement call, entertaining opportunism and perfect execution. 
  • The people at the Wake County SPCA had the idea to take advantage of an Internet trend to promote their services. While creating a Lipdub is not original -there has got to be at least 5 milion of them- they position themselves as leaders in the field of non-profits and pet adoption by doing it. Also, having pets in your video is always a big win for the Internet. The video got over 25 000 views and even made the news because they used an ABBA song and were asked to remove it by the band’s label. They removed the song, found a clever way to keep the video online while respecting the ban and succeeded at promoting their services to a broader audience. 
  • Sometimes, a comment or a request on your Facebook page can turn into an event of it’s own. And you can’t let it go unnoticed. When Samsung Canada got an interesting request from a consumer, they responded playfully and got a lot of attention for it. Instead of banking on the virality of the conversation itself, they took the lead and made sure they would publicize this “act of kindness” into bigger proportions. As you can see, the results were astonishing. Don’t be afraid to take the lead and push the envelope when it comes to customer/ donor/ fan satisfaction. It can go a long way.


  • Recently the Internet has been flooded with Harlem Shake videos. A lot of brands, celebrities and even sports teams jumped on the bandwagon. However, some non-profits tried too but it didn’t go too well. Here is the Red Cross and a Dutch Parkinson’s Disease Foundations’ whack at it. While some may argue it got attention and that technically it makes it a successful ad, I must disagree. Yes it brought awareness to the cause these foundations fight but will it spur donations or give the organisation more credibility? I hardly think so. These are serious matters and to trivialise it with some doubtful associations is not helping.
  • The election of the new Pope had its share of coverage in the media. Instinctively, some brands tried to take advantage of it to promote their products or services. For example, Carl’s Jr, an American restaurant chain tweeted these awkward posts during the last day of the conclave. Again, it got a lot of media attention but the reception was mixed (to be polite). No one in the Twittosphere was impressed and while it may have made some headlines, it wasn’t for the best of reasons. In this case it might have hurt the brand more than it served it. 

Trial and error is far from being an exact science, but in the social media world, if you don’t try anything you won’t gain anything. If content or tweets are created with consistency, good taste and is aligned with your organisation’s positionning, you should fare well. Also, social media is great for the feedback it gives you. Don’t be afraid to respond to criticism or change your content if you see that it might have rubbed some people the wrong way by being poorly executed.

PS: This article is very biased and reflects personal opinions. We encourage you to leave a comment and discuss what you think of these executions.