The Wendy’s social media saga

Chick-fil-A wasn’t the only fast-food chain seeing high volume on Twitter today, after anti-gay-marriage comments by Chick-fil-A CEO.

According to Twitter search site Topsy, conversation around Wendy’s nearly doubled, seeing close to 6,600 tweets compared to its daily average of around 3,300. So what happened?

On Wednesday morning, the owner of the largest Wendy’s franchise in the world updated the marquees at multiple Carolina stores stating, “We stand with Chick-fil-A,” in support of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. (If you haven’t been following the story, conservative former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee responded to the Chick-fil-A exec’s anti-gay-marriage stance by calling today Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.)

Before many Wendy’s restaurants were even open for the day, the company received a tweet,“@Wendys is joining @Chickfila,” along with a photo of a marquee. Within just 5 minutes of receiving the tweet, Wendy’s tweeted back very simply, “We’re looking into this.”

Had that been the whole story, I’m fairly certain myself and others would be applauding Wendy’s for their quick response time, and careful choice in words, since they likely did need more details. But the story does not stop there.

For the next two hours or so, Wendy’s continued to tweet “We’re looking into this” to hundreds of Twitter users, many of whom received duplicate tweets, as a result of the redundant rapid-fire replies sent from Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and native Twitter all at the same time.

Further into the day, Wendy’s updated their response saying, “An independent franchisee posted the sign, which he’s taken down. We proudly serve ALL customers!,”

And that’s when it really spun out of control. By tweeting that they serve ALL customers, Wendy’s implied that Chick-fil-A does not, which has never been the issue at hand.

At that point, most social media teams would’ve stepped away to discuss the matter internally before continuing to fuel the fire. But not Wendy’s. Dedicated as they were, they continued to individually reply to hundreds of users assuring them that they serve ALL customers.

And as you can probably guess, they were ultimately called out for it. Conservative radio host and CNN contributor Dana Loesch tweeted, “I wish @Wendys would correct its suggestion that #Chickfila doesn’t serve all customers. They don’t discriminate in employment or service.”

One Twitter user even summed up social media strategy, “Waltz into debates, toss insinuations around, treat customers like they’re stupid, then spam apologies. Good plan.”

Another Twitter user wrote, “I know you think ignoring the question will make it go away, @Wendys. It won’t. Do you think @Chickfila serves ALL its customers proudly?”

Wendy’s replied saying that it was “not what we meant … we’re honored to serve all!” From there, the fast-food joint updated their reply with apologies for the confusion and began to answer several hundred more incoming tweets.

Some eleven hours after this all began, Wendy’s finally tweeted an apology to Chick-fil-A.  “@Chickfila Looks like some thought we were picking on CFA earlier on Twitter. Really wasn’t the case- apologize if it came off that way!”

And while they did issue an apology, some may question the sincerity given that it was a tweeted directly to Chick-fil-A, therefore leaving it out of Wendy’s followers’ feeds.

Amanda Bohan is head of Amanda Bohan Marketing, a social media and digital strategy company catered toward arts clients and startups. Until recently, Amanda was part of the social media leadership team at MEC, one of the world’s largest media agencies, where she created effective social strategy for top brands. Follow her on Twitter @amandabohan.


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