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PETA’s massive social media failure

AP Photo

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) made a critical error earlier this week, severely underestimating the internet’s love for bacon. In the course of an otherwise unremarkable day for the organization, PETA’s official Twitter account threw down a challenge that the internet was all too eager to take up.

“Present your best argument for eating bacon.” With over 17,000 individual responses to the tweet, itself garnering less than 1,500 likes, it’s safe to say that PETA opened a can of worms it wasn’t expecting. What really got under the collective internet’s skin however, was the dismissive attitude PETA took towards those with differing opinions – often tweeting single word replies or belittling gifs in a ham-fisted attempt to project relevance or control of the situation.

As you might imagine, this tactless display of close-mindedness did little to ingratiate PETA’s position in the eyes of those watching. Huffington Post and even Sports Illustrated satirized the social media disaster.

PETA did not release an official response or comment on their failed social media stunt.

This recent Twitter storm is just another in a long line of publicity stunts, funded by the $30 million a year organization that is grasping at straws to maintain relevance.

Recent reports show that PETA is losing steam – both financially and in popularity, despite a marked increase in vegan and vegetarian lifestyles among Americans. This disparity begs one question: why?

The answer lies in a hard truth that many organizations and politicians on the left (and right) are being forced to come to terms with – millennials play by a different set of rules. In the age of hyper-connectedness, down-to-earth and relatable rhetoric that is delivered by peers or trusted influencers carries far more weight with the digital generation than obtuse talking points and obviously jury-rigged efforts to increase “relatability.”

Relying on shock value (Warning: NSFW PETA advertisements) while attempting to shoehorn their message into relevancy continues to backfire on PETA – and for good reason. Whereas viral marketing taps into an emotional connection existing in our generation, exploitive messaging like PETA’s forces an emotional response, most often one of disgust, detachment, or irritation. After all, millennials hate being forced to do something.

The key to connecting on an intimate level with millennials is to build and nurture relationships. We’re in the golden age of relationship marketing, and if organizations like PETA don’t learn to adapt quickly they’ll go the way of the Dodo bird; irony at its finest.

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