UPS is a multibillion-dollar corporation, but because it is the year 2018, the company also has a Twitter account for its retail arm, the UPS Store, that has nurtured a zanier internet persona. On Monday, that account caused a brief holiday-related hullabaloo when it joked about shredding children’s letters to Santa.
“If your child addresses a letter to the North Pole, you can leave it with us. We do shredding,” the tweet read.
Though the post earned thousands of likes and retweets, some on Twitter also called it “heartless” and “dark,” and it was soon deleted.
While this snafu ultimately matters very little, let’s just say it: It was lame of the UPS Store to delete the tweet. Yes, it was slightly rude, calculated Grinchery—but that is exactly what the company is paying for with this account. If you’re going to do the “weird corporate Twitter account” thing, at least stand by it, ya know?
This shouldn’t have been a surprise. The official UPS account remains relatively straight-laced, but where @UPS serves buttoned-up tweets to its 200,000-plus followers, @TheUPSStore might as well be called “not your mother’s @UPS,” because it regularly tosses off gems like this to its 47,000 faithful:
If you’re having trouble deciphering that, it’s supposed to represent a bunny, and it’s a meme, which is to say, an in-joke. To the layperson, it’s understandably unclear what, if any, direct effect a post like this could have on promoting the products of the UPS Store. But that in and of itself can constitute a strategy. On Twitter, many companies—snack and fast-food companies specifically come to mind—have gained attention for taking up the house style of Twitter and trying, tweet by tweet, to go viral. And that’s exactly what the UPS Store was going for here, as a representative from the company told BuzzFeed: “The UPS Store has a fun, whimsical personality that we’ve cultivated over the last year and this tweet was in alignment with how we post on a regular basis.” In other words, the UPS Store has been trying to do what Wendy’s and other brands have achieved: Go viral and “win Twitter” for being weird and stupid. Its only crime, in this case, was not fully committing to the weirdness and stupidity.
Whether this works as a marketing tactic isn’t as clear as the social media managers who practice it might tell their bosses. Sure, it might increase engagement, but does it lead to any kind of sales bump? For a fast-food company, there’s the argument that greater brand exposure can only help keep Wendy’s burgers and fries top of mind, but when we’re talking about utilitarian services like the UPS Store, that path seems less clear. (Then again, I now know where to go the next time I need to shred documents.)
That said, if we buy into niche-funny Twitter accounts as good strategy, I would like to endorse the UPS Store’s joke about shredding kids’ letters to Santa. Zero kids young enough to still believe in Santa saw that tweet. I need us to inhabit a world where people aren’t offended by jokes that mock Santa’s existence. If this harmless gag is “dark” and capable of whipping the UPS Store social media team into a frenzy, you might want to sit down while I show you the rest of Twitter.
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