Lessons in Community Management from Wendy’s and Merriam-Webster

All hail the community manager: The person (or team) that takes a social strategy developed in the boardroom and implements it. This role is especially challenging on Twitter—a platform some argue has been overrun with trolls, bots, eggs and abuse. How can a digital communications professional not only avoid peril in this toxic stew, but thrive, building brand affinity for their organization, as well as positive news headlines?

One need only look to fast food giant Wendy’s and preeminent dictionary Merriam-Webster for recent lessons.

Yes, really.

Here’s what savvy community managers can learn from these shining stars of Twitter engagement.

Don’t be afraid to fight back

Wendy’s made headlines by zinging users who troll the chain.


In an interview with The Daily Dot, the community manager responsible for the zing lays out the strategy behind it. “We’ll roast you, but with a wink. It’s all in good fun!” While it may not have been fun for Thuggy D’s mentions, it paid dividends for Wendy’s, with many users replying they were buying food at the chain just because of the burn.

Admit when you’re wrong

There’s a downside to being quick on one’s feet. Wendy’s also made headlines by creating a Pepe the Frog meme. Pepe, a once innocuous meme character, has been coopted by the alt-right. The brand quickly apologized and deleted the post.

Don’t be afraid to call others out

It’s not just hamburger joints that beef online. Merriam-Webster got into a debate with Dictionary.com’s handle after it tweeted an inspirational quote with an image that was slightly off base.


It shouldn’t be a regular part of your strategy, but if you see a competitor slip up, a good-natured razzing can benefit your brand. Of course, it does provide some exposure to your competitor too—so proceed with caution (and be ready to handle a follow-up zinger).

Know what’s trending

Merriam-Webster has taken the dictionary off the bookshelf and out of a dusty library and made it part of timely conversations on Twitter. The handle reflects on spikes in searches for certain words or phrases online—usually tied to an event that is unfolding, such as the Women’s Marches around the world.


Since it’s tied to a timely event, users following the event retweet the post, driving even more engagement (and look-ups on the website).

Consider “going there”

Merriam-Webster also subtly trolled presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway after she uttered the phrase “alternative facts” on Sunday’s Meet the Press.


The post doesn’t specifically tag Conway, but it does use her image in the accompanying link. There were plenty of users who accused the dictionary of getting “political.” Will it result in fewer digital subscriptions or dictionary sales? Only time will tell—but my guess is the tweet gave most Merriam-Webster a good chuckle.

To get the job, be good at Twitter

Merriam-Webster says its community manager reached out about the job on Twitter. Wendy’s says it hired its community manager because of her skill on her personal account. Don’t be afraid to show your stuff.

To close, a perfect summary from this insightful Lit Hub interview with the team behind Merriam-Webster’s presence: “That’s why our Twitter is so good: it’s not a marketing construct, it’s who we really are.” Make sure your community managers reflect your organization’s voice and values, and you’ll rise above the worst of the platform.

Posted on 01/24/2017 in Digital

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