Here’s how to keep your balance on the social media tightrope

Here’s how to keep your balance on the social media tightrope
Mar 20

Jackie Stierlin

Digital Marketing

Brands on social media have to walk a fine line between being tongue-in-cheek and being offensive. And nobody needs to say this to Burger King. It seemed to have tripped over the line and found itself on the wrong side of good taste with its International Women's Day tweet. In this blog, we take a closer look at how to balance on the social media tightrope.

The offending tweet

On International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021, Burger King's UK channel tweeted "Women belong in the kitchen." The brand tweeted this inflammatory statement anticipating angry responses from people who objected to this stereotype.

Burger King followed up with a comment about how it was addressing sexual inequality in the food industry by tweeting: "If they want to of course. Yet only 20% of chefs are women. We're on a mission to change the gender ratio in the restaurant industry by empowering female employees with the opportunity to pursue a culinary career."

Burger King then announced that in honour of International Women's Day, it was investing in culinary scholarships for women in the US, Mexico, UK and other countries. The fast-food chain's heart was in the right place because it was addressing a legitimate problem in the food industry, but the way this information was announced didn't go down well. The Twitterati’s response was swift and overwhelmingly negative.

The follow-up tweet

The initial tweet was successful because it grabbed attention, but the pay-off information intended to ameliorate the sexist statement failed to rectify the negative impact.

And experts shared their opinions on why the campaign didn't land: "If you want to use sexism as clickbait, then you obviously are not celebrating International Women's Day," said Kerry O'Grady. She is an associate professor at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies and leads its public relations and corporate communications programme. Contrary to its intention, Burger King is now associated with sexism, added O'Grady.

How would we have done it differently? League’s chief strategy officer Jackie Stierlin says: “While going for the shock factor that the post would create, Burger King missed the opportunity to immediately connect the reader to the information to support their cause. The fast-food brand should have been more sensitive to the topic of gender equality, but the reception to this tweet would also have been more positive if it was executed differently. If the reader was immediately met with the follow-up information that only 20% of women are employed as chefs and the inspiring story of how Burger King would like to address this inequality, things would have gone a lot better.”

A better way to do it

Do you want to see an example of how a brand successfully walked the tightrope? UK brand Weetabix lit up Twitter when it suggested combining its breakfast cereal biscuits with Heinz baked beans.

After a series of tweets on the topic of what to put on top of its biscuits, Weetabix posted this tweet on 9 February: "Why should bread have all the fun, when there's Weetabix? Serving up @HeinzUK Beanz on bix for breakfast with a twist.” #ItHasToBeHeinz #HaveYouHadYourWeetabix

The tweet went viral with more than 38 000 retweets to date and thousands of comments and likes. It prompted some hilarious reactions from other brands on Twitter. Tinder UK tweeted that "We'd swipe right…" KFC UK & Ireland said: "Let's set aside our differences to prosecute this under the Geneva Convention" and the US Embassy in London added: "This is not the 🇺🇸 🇬🇧 we were hoping for…" Xbox UK added its opinion too: "💎 Rare Achievement Unlocked 💎 literally the worst thing we've ever seen."

Weetabix is the clear winner here. Its tweet gained the brand a great deal of attention and managed to leave a good taste in people's mouths because of its playful tone and execution.

Brands have to walk a tightrope, but with the right partner, you can successfully navigate social media to get the right kind of buzz around your brand. Check out our Digital Marketing Brochure to find out more about how we can help you with your social media.

Start your digital marketing journey.

Download our digital marketing brochure.

Brochure download