Taking a bite into fast-food ads on Twitter
The postings to the Whopper Virgins Twitter account aren't what you might expect from a major corporation like Burger King.
"Gained like 5 lbs. in 1 week. I don't understand. ... At least I have my whoppers to keep my spirits up," a message posted a few weeks ago read. "Lost my virginity to a whopper. Feeling like a slut," read one of the earliest tweets.
As you may have gathered, this isn't affiliated with the Burger King company or its marketing team, which is running the TV campaign in which foreigners document their first encounters with the hamburger. The Whopper Virgins account is maintained by a Milwaukee man who calls himself Paul. (He refused to give his full name to protect himself from potential legal recourse.)
And he does seem to have reason for concern. Last month, theBKlounge, which looks much more like a legitimate account run by Burger King, sent a public message to Whopper Virgins, saying, "CEASE AND DESIST. UNAUTHORIZED USE OF TRADEMARK. What is your motivation by the way ... ?"
Paul hadn't seen the tweet until I pointed it out to him Thursday. "It looks very unofficial," he said. "I've never had a cease and desist presented to me, but I would imagine it doesn't normally look like that. ... It seems like they're joking around."
He was right. TheBKlounge account, just like Paul's own, is simply another overzealous burger fan. A Burger King spokesperson said, "We're flattered the King has fans on Twitter. While we appreciate the love, we do want to clarify those twittering are unofficial members of the Kingdom, and not the King or his Court."
And since that 89-character legal warning, theBKlounge has begun sending Twitter messages ...
... to Whopper Virgins, conversing casually and rebroadcasting some of the Whopper Virgins' messages (a practice known as re-tweeting).
Paul says he has no ulterior motives behind his project. "I'm just doing it for fun," he said. "I have nothing against Burger King."
"I think their commercials are funny. I laugh at them. So, I hope they find some humor in what I'm doing, too."
The idea for Paul's pet project came from his friend, Ryan Thompson, a social media strategist from Milwaukee. This type of pop culture spoofing is a way that consumers are taking a company's advertising to the next level, Thompson said.
"It's just part of the conversation -- open communication," he said. "All we're doing is continuing that conversation in a different forum."
Thompson was so impressed with Paul's success with Whopper Virgins -- it has amassed 422 followers --that he started his own version. The 3conomics account on Twitter, based on the Wendy's TV ad campaign, hosts fewer satirical jabs at the burger franchise. It occasionally interacts publicly with Whopper Virgins.
Thompson says he's also doing it for fun and has no intention of troubling the fast-food company. "There's no ill will," he said. "I'm a fan of the Biggie Fries."
With global communication tools within the social media realm becoming so prevalent, Thompson says that for companies to have a truly successful marketing plan, they must talk with the consumer, not to them.
"I believe you have to be part of the conversation, or you're not saying anything at all," he said.
But when consumers are in a way assuming the identities of these corporations, it becomes more difficult to filter the true company-consumer interactions from the fake ones. But at least they're not trying to extort, as in the case of the hijacked Howard Stern account.
The Twitter corporate account verification tool that co-founder Biz Stone said the company was working on a month ago could really come in handy right about now.
-- Mark Milian