The Kanye/Wiz Twitter drama teaches us that brands must listen before they speak.

Here’s the breakdown:

Earlier this week, Rapper B.o.B and Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson got into an argument about the Earth being flat (I know). Then on January 27th, Twitter imploded when Kanye West lashed out at rapper Wiz Khalifa by insulting not only his music but his family. It’s been a strange week in the Twittersphere, but if this wild week has taught us anything, it’s that social listening is as important as ever, and Twitter is an extremely powerful tool that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

A Twitter Beef Breakdown:

Here’s a quick crash course on what happened: Wiz disrespected Kanye’s new album titled “WAVES,” and — if you didn’t know by now — Kanye doesn’t take well to disrespect, as he is the self proclaimed “greatest artist of all time” (not disagreeing here). The specific tweets relating to this Twitter beef are all screenshotted and saved into the archives of the internet for the rest of eternity, so look those up at your own will. However, I say this: Kanye started out with “First of all” and ended with “17th of all.” Yup, 17th of all. Kanye is known for breaking records, and this was likely the longest list of points ever made in a Twitter rant.  

Anyway, the specifics of this so-called beef are not the main point of this blog, as you can get the dirty details from any of the dozens of articles already written about this feud. What I really want to talk about is the reach that something like this has on the internet, and how it went viral– instantly. Within a mere five minutes, both Kanye and Wiz were trending, with thousands of people tweeting about the drama.  

The Real Takeaway: Social Listening

The real takeaway is a valuable crash course on social listening. Social listening is as easy as clicking on a trending topic, finding and reading what people are tweeting about most, researching which tweets have the most retweets, and recognizing what’s really resonating with people. Many bold brands such as Hamburger Helper, Denny’s, and Subway were quick to jump in on this trending conversation and add their own input. This example of real-time marketing is a digital gold mine of engagement waiting to happen – that is, if done right. That being said, without the proper research and brand consistency considerations, companies weighing in on social issues — through online channels — can be a complete disaster. That’s where active social listening comes in. While it may seem like you need to jump in immediately and comment on everything that’s trending, we recommend a slower, more methodical approach. First: Slow down and do your research, especially if what’s trending is a bit out of your general field of expertise. For example: Kanye and Wiz have a long history that goes way beyond the scope of this twitterstorm, and brands should tread carefully and be aware of that. It’s already pretty risky to weigh in on something as outlandish as some of the things that trend online, but doing so can quickly become your PR team’s worst nightmare if you weigh in and have your facts wrong.

However, if done right, weighing in (or creating your own spin on the topic) can create and build some major brand recognition that will appeal to a variety of audiences, especially the younger audience.

Bottom line is this: Like anything in life, the more you listen, the more knowledgeable you become. If your brand is going to comment on something, do a lot of social listening before you dive in head first.

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