In the first presidential debate on Wednesday night in Denver, President Barack Obama and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney faced off over a slew of domestic policy issues, including the growing deficit, taxes and small businesses. When Romney was asked about what he would do to decrease the federal deficit, one of the programs he said he would stop funding was Public Broadcasting Service. One of PBS’s most popular shows is Sesame Street, on which the 8-foot-tall yellow bird is a star.
“I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it. That's number one,” said Romney.
Almost instantaneously, Big Bird became a social media sensation. Twitter handles were created -- @FiredBigBird and @BigBirdRomney -- among others. The debate was the most tweeted political event in history, according to Twitter’s political branch, with 10.3 million Tweets in 90 minutes. Every minute, there were 17,000 tweets for "Big Bird" and 10,000 tweets per minute for "PBS," Twitter’s political communications arm tweeted.
Even President Obama’s administration got in on the action. The handle @BarackObama tweeted “President Obama: ‘Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird.’" In addition, then there were the Facebook memes: image montage including Big Bird and his Sesame Street cohorts.
Here are three things that entrepreneurs can learn from the Big Bird social media explosion:
1. Emotional is best. The reason that everyone got so up in arms about Big Bird, during a presidential debate chock full of economic policy no less, is because people care about Big Bird. “It is something that is dear for people,” says Silvina Moschini, the CEO of Intuic, a social media agency that consults the likes of Twitter, Google and MasterCard. People remember Big Bird from their childhood, or they know that their own children are fans of Big Bird. “Touch the heart and it will become viral,” says Moschini.
2. Make it visual. Big Bird is more than 8 feet tall and bright yellow. He’s hard to miss. “In social media, everything is about having a visual story to tell,” says Moschini. Not only does it grab people’s attention, but it also gives users something to be creative with. “There were images of Big Bird served on a Thanksgiving dish and Big Bird waiting on an employment line,” says Moschini. People react to the images and share them.
3. You have got to be on top of your brand on social media. The worst thing an entrepreneur can do is not respond when his or her brand is on stage in the social media world. Things happen quickly. Really quickly. And you can’t have your head in the sand.
Entrepreneurs “really need to understand how this dynamic works because some people at large companies and the small companies are afraid of social media,” says Moschini. “Just because they are not present does not meant the people will not talk about them.” If something negative is said about your brand online, for example, you need to be at the ready to deal with the repercussions.