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How tweeting the F word helped Wingstop go viral

On Tuesday, the chicken chain Wingstop tweeted one simple yet impactful word; “Fuck”. While minimal, the the tweet had some 473,000 likes and nearly 100,000 retweets by press time, both of which are continuing to climb.

The tweet was an irreverent take on a meme trend that began on Twitter last week, in which brands posted one-word messages that summarised, in a hyperbolically vague way, their line of business. CNN tweeted “breaking news;” Wendy’s tweeted “burgers;” the NBA and MLB tweeted “basketball” and “baseball,” respectively; even the official account for the President of the United States, @POTUS, tweeted “democracy.”

Interestingly, this is a trend that dates back to 2019 with brands sharing one word tweets as an attempt to make users laugh or create a punchy sense of connection. One of the first to catch attention was Xbox, which tweeted “Xbox” in May 2019 and netted nearly 130,000 likes and 28,000 retweets.

“The lesson here when it comes to meme culture: what’s funny once could be funny again and just because it went viral once doesn’t mean it won’t go viral again sometime in the future,” Conor Mason, president and co-founder of Cornelia Creative, told Ad Age over email. Cornelia develops memes for brands to use on social media.

What’s more is that the tweets are often funnier coming from more ‘serious’ brands. Amtrak was the first to revive the one-word meme this time around, tweeting “trains” on Sept. 1. The post generated close to 200,000 likes—pretty good for an account that rarely picks up more than a few hundred likes on the bulk of its tweets. Yet despite the apparent randomness, Amtrak’s strategy was calculated, deriving inspiration from brands that had activated the trend in the past, according to Jason Abrams, Amtrak’s senior public relations manager.

If there’s anything that this trend has taught us it may be that sometimes, the idea of trend planning should be thrown out all together. “Always be prepared to be unprepared,” wrote Mason. “If needed, throw out the plans and ignore the social content calendar… if it works for your brand, act fast, hop on and buckle up.”

Another way to successfully “hop on” viral trends is to experiment with form, so that when the time comes, you will know whether a viral opportunity makes sense for your audience. This is how Amtrak ultimately decided to activate the one-word meme.

Putting a brand’s own spin on a meme can also help separate oneself from the pack, especially when numerous accounts are adding to the trend. Wingstop’s explicit tweet exemplifies this idea. The brand initially made a “wings” tweet on the day the one-word trend went viral, but since dozens of others had already weighed in at that point, the post only garnered a few thousand likes. A few days later, however, the brand learned that its restaurants were close to selling out a four-week supply of its new chicken sandwich in only six days. Wingstop saw an opportunity and hopped on it.

“Having an established relationship with our loyal Twitter audience, we expected that this tweet would be highly-engaged with and prime the chicken sandwich sell-out chatter that followed,” a Wingstop spokesperson told Ad Age. The decision resulted in the brand’s highest performing tweet, and an influx of over 14,000 new followers.

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