The art of newsjacking
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The art of newsjacking

The art of newsjacking

How the temporary outage on Facebook’s platforms was leveraged as a marketing opportunity by Twitter


When Facebook and its platforms Instagram and WhatsApp went down on October 4, 2021, it seemed like the impossible had happened.

Three of the main platforms that we use to regularly communicate and stay connected were all offline and many people were left struggling to figure out how to fill in the social media vacuum.

Enter Twitter.

The company’s main account tweeted a very timely and amusing “Hello literally everyone”, which was instantly met with a barrage of responses, amassing 2.4 million ‘likes’ in just four hours.

Three short words that signified the start of an exceptional marketing campaign that displayed the subtle nuances of newsjacking at its finest.

Newsjacking is extremely difficult to pull off, as it entails taking advantage of trending news stories to positively promote one’s own brand, but in the case of Twitter, it was a winning tactic.

It allowed them to leverage the viral news story of Facebook being down, and contribute to the public conversation, while still maintaining a sense of humour and not coming across as opportunistic or too pushy in their efforts. Other major brands were also quick to jump on the bandwagon to secure their time in the limelight by engaging in conversation with Twitter. “Hi what can I get u” was how McDonald’s  replied to Twitter – to which Twitter responded with a hilarious: “59.6 million nuggets for my friends”.

Many others followed suit and used the thread to promote their products. Netflix used it as a way to highlight its hit show Squid Game and tweeted an image from the show depicting the “Twitter” contestant saving the life of a contestant labelled “Everyone”.

The memes just kept coming, turning into a proverbial windfall for Twitter. Even American movie star and singer Dolly Parton couldn’t resist and posted a hilarious gif of herself. This mass migration to Twitter, as a result of Facebook-operated social media platforms being down, was not only welcomed by the platform, but handled expertly.

While the memes on Twitter continued to be in ample supply, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also got in on the fun, by replying to an unverified screenshot suggesting that the address was for sale, and tweeting “How much?”.

The major challenges in effective newsjacking are: Quick action is required in order to be successful; and the issue needs to be handled delicately so as not to be seen as too “forced”.

Twitter’s actions during the six hours of the Facebook blackout clearly demonstrated its ability to be fast, agile and tactile in not only responding to the situation, but also recognising how to address it in a witty and relevant way.

Zaib Shadani is the managing director at Shadani Consulting

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