The Best Social Media Stunts of 2013

And like a thief in the night, our dreams of airplane social warfare have been taken away. Elan Gale, television producer of such reality TV hits as The Bachelor and Coolio’s Rules, tweeted out an epic tale of his passive-aggressive note war with a woman named Diane on a plane during Thanksgiving. Diane supposedly slapped him in the airport terminal upon landing. After a series of uncomfortable social media exchanges, Gale finally admitted he made the whole thing up for the purpose of entertainment. And about 100,000 Twitter followers.

And that’s what the best stunts do—they grab attention. The best social media stunts get your brand free fame without any bad press. 2013 was a year filled with gags and stunts, so let’s get to it.

Chipotle Goes Insane. Jumping all the way back to July, Chipotle’s Twitter feed seemed to get hacked. With random, unfunny tweets about ending Twitter and getting groceries, Chipotle rode the “we got hacked” train as a stunt for their 20th anniversary. What do you get for spraying nonsense on your Twitter feed if you’re a major brand? Over 4,000 followers in one day.

Oreo Wins the Super Bowl. If you know anything about social media, you know the real half-time show of the Super Bowl this year was Oreo’s ingenious tweeting. When the biggest TV event of the year (probably) went black, Oreo’s simple tweet about dunking in the dark made them social media darlings for days. Oreo is known for doing earned media right, but this tweet still stands out 10 months later.

Flaming Twerk Fail. This video is a classic set-up. A girl films herself twerking in her dorm room, loses her balance while trying to dance in a confined space and sets her pants on fire. Everyone laughs cruelly and the video goes viral with over nine million views in a matter of days. Of course, social media evil genius Jimmy Kimmel was behind the whole thing. You can call this one a hoax if you wish, but Mr. Kimmel certainly seems to be making his name synonymous with viral video and social media.

Pulling a stunt. If you’re considering involving your brand in a social media stunt, it should go without saying that you are tap-dancing into a minefield. While their random tweets got them followers, Chipotle’s faked hack could have also blown up in their faces. Elan Gale got some serious criticism before he finally spilled the beans. More to the point, social media is a finicky place. If you’re going to attempt a gag, make sure it’s quick, researched and inoffensive. And be ready to answer some questions. Hopefully they’re from an online publication and not your supervisor.

What was your favorite social media stunt this year? Tweet me your answers at @mendal187.