As brands strategize about how best to use social media to talk to consumers, they're also increasingly talking to each other. The hope -- whether the banter is friendly or catty -- is to capture some recognition for being clever and quick, all the better to get attention and followers on platforms like Twitter.
The practice is not yet widespread, largely because of concerns from marketers' legal departments. But some are finding ways to navigate that challenge. Charmin, for example, tweets primarily at other Procter & Gamble brands to keep things in the family, while AMC Theatres and Oreo have tweeted at each other because they're represented by the same digital agency, 360i.
And instances of un-orchestrated, organic social media exchanges have been increasing in the last year or two, 360i President Sarah Hofstetter said. In the case of client Oreo's exchange with Kit-Kat, the chocolate bar brand started things and Oreo chose to respond.
"A lot of it is about striking the right match," she said. "The more that brands see others doing it well, the more comfortable they are."
Some marketers are most at ease responding after another brand initiates contact. That's been the case with Cap'n Crunch, and the strategy has helped it avoid coming off as grasping and trying to ride on someone else's coattails, according to community manager Andrew Cunningham at digital agency Huge. "'Only respond when approached' has worked to their benefit because we never look desperate," he said.
Another important tip is to do some homework before jumping into a conversation. It's unwise to respond to one tweet without looking to see if it was part of a bigger thread that alters the meaning of it, Mr. Cunningham pointed out. In that case, a brand might come off as too aggressive. "One tweet might not be reflective of what you're replying to," he said.
Check out our list of brands that engage in banter below.
1. KFC and Cap'n Crunch. Colonel Sanders and Cap'n Crunch acted the parts of grumpy old men when KFC responded to a Twitter user and called the captain a "has been." Cap'n Crunch took umbrage at that.
Huge's Mr. Cunningham expanded on the strategy: "KFC came at us pretty hard, and at that point we had full license to zing them back."
2. Taco Bell and Old Spice. Taco Bell is famously responsive -- and often cheeky -- on social media. In a May 2012 reply to Old Spice -- which had tweeted "Why is it that 'fire sauce' isn't made with any real fire? Seems like false advertising" -- the fast feeder had an in-kind response. Red Bull also jumped in, tweeting, "No bull: the original Energy Drink is not made of wiiings."
@OldSpice Is your deodorant made with really old spices?— Taco Bell (@TacoBell) July 9, 2012
3. Bud Light Platinum and Samsung. Bud Light Platinum gave a shout-out to Samsung, linking to a Mashable story on the September release of the hardware maker's smart watch, the Galaxy Gear.
We see you Samsung with that smooth finish... http://t.co/qvWxteqB9n— Bud Light Platinum (@BLPlatinum) August 28, 2013
4. Oreo and AMC. Two 360i clients, Oreo and AMC Theatres, got into a fake beef last September when the cookie brand tweeted the question of whether people had ever brought Oreos to a movie theater. AMC responded with faked outrage, which set the stage for a back and forth.
5. Rice Krispies and Bounty. Kellogg's-owned Rice Krispies mentioned P&G's Bounty last week in a tweet with a picture of a little girl in a high chair, slathered in her favorite cereal. Bounty responded with an assurance that "we've always got your messes covered!"
6. Polar and Smirnoff. After Polar Beverages invited it (among other vodka brands) to a hangout with Polar Seltzer in February, Smirnoff responded in kind with a virtual RSVP. It resulted in Smirnoff declaring that they'd collectively invented a new drink: Vanilla Chiller (made with root-beer flavored vodka and vanilla seltzer).
7. Kit-Kat and Oreo. Oreo has been part of a few brand interchanges on Twitter, but this one in March was initiated by Kit-Kat. The chocolate bar challenged the chocolate cookie to a game of tic-tac-toe with a specific fan's affections at stake.
8. Oreo and Honda. Honda is the most recent brand to strike up a conversation with Oreo. It posted a Vine video earlier this month showing a white SUV sandwiched by two black ones in the genre of an Oreo cookie. The cars vanish one at a time.
9. Tide and Charmin. Charmin is prolific on Twitter -- often venturing to tweet about the seemingly random, like the sci-fi fantasy convention Dragon Con -- and sometimes it also tweets shout-outs to P&G siblings. It sent congratulations to Tide for its Super Bowl TV spot and recently tweeted a link to a story about a bathroom for canines to Iams.