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What is “Weird Twitter”?
Random, ludicrous, and oftentimes nonsensical. It’s an eclectic mixture of one liners, non-sequiturs and beat poetry that sums up everything that’s wonderful and worrying about the internet.
They demonstrate sloppy grammar and stream-of-consciousness nuggets of wit and/or confusion.
But what does it mean? It evokes a feeling of both radical, norm-breaking protest and immature poop jokes.
Is it pushing an anti-corporate agenda or laughing at the guy who just fell down the stairs?
What’s certain is that Twitter has never been used this way before – and never generated such feverish fanbases.
“today’s episode is brought to you by the letter Ѭ and the number (҉) ” blood pours from Big Bird’s beak. Bert devours Ernie. Elmo explodes
— bad tweets barrett (@pissrifle) September 30, 2012
If you ask any of the tweeters themselves, they’re unlikely to tell you how norm-breaking the Weird Twitter movement is – or that a ‘movement’ actually exists.
In fact, they’ll probably respond to you with a series of existential paradoxes. Or, something about Beyoncé. Or maybe a poorly photoshopped image of a duck.
That’s what makes the phenomenon so magnetic, yet so hard to define. It’s a vague writing style characterised by poor spelling, abstract language and surreal scenarios.
The tweeters subvert (or, sometimes, revel in) all the norms of pop and Twitter culture, and in doing so they’re defining the future of it.
It breaks just about every convention social marketers have been taught – but it’s cultivating a huge following.
i’m not racist, but, *cranes neck to see if anyone’s around. keeps craning. head unscrews entirely. out of the hole pour jewels & mysteries*
— bandit (@UtilityLimb) September 27, 2011
At Brandwatch, we have a lot of sophisticated systems to measure online influence.
The most prolific weird tweeters boast over 100,000 followers, with hundreds of smaller pages having thousands of followers each.
Weird Twitter doesn’t care for such measures.
There are very few ways to ‘engage’ with Weird Twitter – what do you say in response to these nihilistic tableaus? Nothing. All we can do is nod in confusion and hit the little yellow star.
Fascination with favourite-tracking tool Favstar has elevated ‘favstars’ to Weird Twitter’s social currency. Favstar bots – which tweet you after hitting 50, 100, 250 and 500 ‘favs’ – are exalted as deities.
did everoyone else in the unemployment line get one of my favstar printouts? good. i will take my seat on the floor now
— wint (@dril) December 1, 2013
It’s a strange inversion of a typical brand strategy, which prioritizes RTs, reach and impact.
‘Favs’ are a quiet nod of appreciation towards a nonsense that resonates with them. They do nothing to get the tweet in front of more eyes.
Yet, fans of weird Twitter pages appear to have a huge affinity to for their favourite tweeters. When a tweeter takes a break from ‘the scene’, they’re dearly missed.
an old achewood panel rotted away and philippe fell out. he wanders the site’s php, begging to be let back in, but onstad, like god, is dead
— bandit (@UtilityLimb) April 20, 2012
The success of the seemingly pointless tweets might confuse the majority of readers. How could something so vacuous garner a following of hundreds of thousands?
Looking a little deeper, though, are these 140 character gems really so pointless and nonsensical? Perhaps there’s more reality in them than you might think.
There’s a quality of honesty and realism to be found amongst the ‘jokes’ about body parts and excrement.
Everything happens so much
— Horse ebooks (@Horse_ebooks) June 28, 2012
The tweeters are spewing their raw, unfiltered thoughts onto a page, giving a reader a blurry glimpse into the inner workings into their mind.
Is that not ‘realer’ than a string of tweets goading the community to #engage, #RT and #lovethebrand?
Generation MTV is now Generation ‘hey have you seen my independent developed vegan webdocumentary – it’s not a tryhard thing though’.
@tropikoala i would argue that “we” are trying to touch on some Realness that is frequently denied to us (communally) in daily life
— GHØ$T₤¥ G€ИG∆® (@Munq) October 20, 2012
Tweeters have moved beyond chronicling the significant and insignificant parts of their day.
They don’t want to tweet you a picture of their coffee.
Sincerity and clarity is waning while pseudo-ironic stream of consciousness tweets are on the rise. A jaded tweeting body is tired of the spell-checked, sugar-coated mass of tweets about breakfast foods.
When was the last time you saw someone tweet about what they ate for breakfast without even a hint of irony?
For any large business, a glimpse at Weird Twitter might confuse and disorientate even the most experienced social media strategist.
But some savvy brands are already adapting to the shift in tweeter sensibilities.
Knowing who your customers are isn’t enough, you’ve got to know how they’re talking to each other.
Roses are books, Violets are books. Everything is books. EVERYTHING IS BOOKS.
— WaterstonesOxfordSt (@WstonesOxfordSt) February 14, 2013
4 classic movie posters re-imagined as a pigeon: pic.twitter.com/AJWAb07Lbw
— Arena Flowers (@ArenaFlowers) February 4, 2014
It’s working, too. The influence, engagement and reach of Waterstones and Arena leaves the averages florist or bookseller in the dust.
With social media trends constantly evolving and changing to move in and out of fashion, it’s important for brands to adapt their strategy.
A dated Twitter strategy not only does nothing to help a brand, but it can also be harmful.
Young’s Twitter page is particularly worth of multiple cringes – there’s only so many times you can use the word ‘ofFISHal’ to promote frozen seafood:
— Young’s Seafood (@youngsseafood) February 13, 2014
Engagement for the page remains at pretty much zero, despite admirable marine punnery.
Looking to corners of Weird Twitter, we’ve seen an unexpected uptake of a plainly unappetizing fishy snack:
take two toasts butter half of each with crab spread half with peppered mackerel then wow its a batenberg sandwich of the sea
— not shippams paste (@ShippamsPaste) October 27, 2011
In the end, this seafood paste ‘social media executive intern’ did reveal itself to be a parody – that didn’t stop Shippam’s making a feeble attempt to emulate the style.
While the feed was up, it spouted tweets of wisdom such as “knock knock whos there doctor doctor who doctor whos brought some salmon spread for your lunch silly,” and “theres no vegetarian pastes sorry but why not try the crab spread its only crabs”.
People rushed out to buy the forgotten seafood spread to share their purchase with the supposed inept social marketer.
Somehow Weird Twitter kickstarted excitement for a brand that been out of the public conscious for decades.
adult man who must frequently be burped like an infant or else he will die
— wint (@dril) March 22, 2014
Weird Twitter perhaps provides a remedy to the snowballing notion that there are now too many ‘good’ brands doing social media the ‘right way’, and to stand out you need to be an innovator, even if it does mean being weird.
However, this strange phenomenon definitely isn’t a template for the future of branded social media, but it’s a powerful lesson about the elasticity of the platform.
Niches can be rocketed to popularity and then die a quiet death in the space of a few months.
There’s great value in being aware of trends, but a solid social media strategy also calls for ingenuity. Brands should try to carve out an social identity.
Sure, lowercase is the new hotness today, but tomorrow it will be something else entirely. Perhaps we’ll even come full circle and gaudy corporate slogans will resonate en masse.
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