The first companies to use social media as a marketing tool were hailed as innovators. But once most brands began to use it, companies had to show a little more oomph and personality to be considered successful. Responding directly to customers and their concerns – and even being a little sassy – showed that brands were up with the latest trends in customer engagement. This fall, KFC may have taken the social media game to a new level.

Back in October, a writer named Herb Scribner noticed that KFC followed him, five other guys named Herb (for a total of six Herbs) and all five members of the Spice Girls. He tweeted about it, but no one took much notice. Then, a few days later, another Twitter also commented on it.

For some reason, this time the Tweet took off and went viral. Twitter users and major news outlets alike went nuts for the idea that KFC was trading on its famous “11 herbs and spices” tagline to create a slow-build Twitter gag. KFC was appreciative of the help from the man who tweeted and sent “Edge” an amazing portrait of him being carried by Colonel Sanders as a gift. The gift was then covered by People Magazine, keeping the brand and their stunt in the spotlight.

This is undeniably a brilliant use of Twitter, but there are some things that brands attempting to replicate the success of this campaign should take note of:

  1. The stunt was simple, but took a long time to pull off. According to the account manager, the stunt was in place for over a month before anyone noticed.
  2. The first time someone noticed, nothing happened. “Going viral” is completely unpredictable. Herb Scribner, the original guy who noticed the stunt, has over 3,000 followers, but his tweet didn’t set off the publicity storm the way that the second tweeter, who has fewer followers, did.
  3. As Adweek pointed out in an article, the stunt doesn’t seem connected to any larger social media plan. Most of KFC’s Twitter account is remarkably mundane. The stunt was great, and bought a few months of coverage, but a better integrated social media plan might have taken the brand even farther.

Social media is unpredictable, but when it works, it really works.  If you’re looking for the kind of marketing talent that can create finger-lickin’ good social campaigns, give us a call.