4 Lessons From WW’s Unfortunate Promoted Tweet That Ran While WWIII Was Trending

How to be nimble when the unexpected happens

twitter trending hashtags and a world map grenade
WW started off 2020 trending alongside speculations of a potential World War III. Getty Images
Headshot of Elijah Schneider

The same day that WW, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers, launched their New Year’s resolution promotion on Twitter’s trending page (#ThisIsMyWW), the United States government was launching something else. And it wasn’t a hashtag.

A week ago, the United States launched an airstrike that ended the life of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. Right around the same time, WW launched a promotion intended for users of their weight-loss program to share their customized food and exercise plans for the new year with the #ThisIsMyWW as a promoted hashtag.

The timing was unfortunate, to say the least, proving that timing is still everything for brands coming into 2020.

a screenshot from Twitter's trending page that shows WW trending alongside WWIII

Below are my top tips on how to carefully monitor not only what you do and the community you’re a part of, but everything else happening in our nonstop world.

Do your research

This may seem obvious to most, but it’s been proven time and time again that there is nothing better than a good plan with data and insights to back it up. There’s a reason this is one of the oldest and most constant practices in advertising. We should really know better than making the mistakes our industry has made in the past.

Play out the ‘what if’ scenario, no matter how crazy it may sound

Put your campaign in a doomsday situation and imagine the absolute worst that could come of it and of any correlating factors that could also hurt it. This is an exercise that may seem unnecessary, but when you’re going against the meme generation and internet trolls, you’ll see social media users can turn anything into a negative.

Heavily monitor all digital activity 24-48 hours after launch

Within the first few days of launching a new campaign, hire someone to monitor the promotion as much as possible or invest in a social listening tool. Social listening tools have developed over the last decade faster than almost any social media tool. These can be used to ensure that if a crisis like this happens, you have the ability to set alerts based on keywords that come up in your “what if” scenario. This allows you to pull or pause the campaign at any given time, and quickly.

Don’t be afraid to pull the plug and know when to do so

If something like this does happen, know it’s OK to take the promotion down, like WW did. If you do have to pull the campaign, don’t hide from it. Make sure you acknowledge the fact that the company has realized what’s going on in the world and actually cares. If something starts on social media then suddenly disappears, usually it only gets worse for the brand. The trolls don’t go away. WW saw this with people retweeting and commenting for nearly five days after they made the decision to stop their promotion. Over 870,000 people discussed the topic on Twitter alone in less than three days.

No matter how much research you have done or scenarios you’ve put your campaign through, there are things that come up in which you may not be able to predict. WW is a perfect example of this.

Editor’s note: Twitter reached out to let us know that WW’s Promoted Trend was removed within an hour of being posted: “We work very closely with our partners to monitor the conversation taking place on Twitter and quickly take action when needed. In this case, we collaborated with WW to swiftly take the Trend down within an hour of the topic trending,” said a spokesperson from Twitter. 

Elijah Schneider founded Modifly at 19 years old to push back against the agency preconceptions of “too expensive” and “usually doesn’t work.”