Editor’s note: This article is a re-run as part of our countdown of top stories from the past year.
The Onion has been writing scathing, satirical headlines and articles for more than 32 years, but what’s on the cutting room floor far outweighs what ends up online.
Ryan Shattuck, former senior social media manager for The Onion, revealed that of roughly 1,200 headlines submitted, only 60 end up within the publication—a 5% acceptance rate that’s below Harvard’s 5.4% for enrollment applications.
This focus on quality over quantity helps to create the publication’s signature voice and tone. Enjoy a chuckle or two with these seven headlines with takeaways for comms pros:
Remember the days of only 140 characters on Twitter? Though the extended character length for tweets and features such as tweet threads can greatly help communicators relay important information and news, tweets should still be pithy to capture interest.
The euphoria of creating a cleverly worded tweet is something to which all social media managers can relate—even if that high is dulled by lackluster engagement.
“At press time, sources confirmed Munson’s masterpiece had been “favorited” by two of his friends,” The Onion wrote.
As misinformation and fake news rapidly increases, Facebook and other social media platforms have been scrambling to address the issue and implement ways to cut down on manipulated or false content.
You don’t have to work for Facebook to be frustrated by an overall lack of information consumption savviness, however. Communicators must work even harder to stand out and protect their organizations’ brand images from rumors floating around social media platforms. Sometimes you might feel like creating a PSA aimed at telling consumers how to better read and fact-check both headlines and social media posts.
Satirizing a statement by Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, The Onion wrote:
Just look at our name: “Facebook.” That doesn’t sound much like a site for important social and political information or commentary, does it? I’m happy to show anyone how to get to a regular news site if you need a little help.
If you’ve ever been in a meeting with an executive or client who thinks social media is the silver bullet—especially if they think it won’t require much budget or effort for results—you can relate to this headline.
What makes this piece even more clever is that it’s sponsored by Adobe, highlighting what you can gain by embracing humor in your branded and sponsored content.
According to sources, [CEO Eric McCulloch’s] virtuoso whiteboard performance has forever rendered traditional advertising pointless and obsolete, and has solved all of Dwyer Publishing’s marketing needs in one fell swoop.
Those getting flashbacks to Mountain Dew’s PuppyMonkeyBaby or Planters’ Baby Nut and Peanut Jr. stunts aren’t alone. Though weird and wacky marketing creations such as these can quickly go viral, they’re met with mixed reactions from consumers and social media managers alike.
Though it is a social media manager’s dream for a clever tweet to entice consumer into becoming a passionate brand advocate, that often isn’t the case. Most of the time, viral content raises brand awareness, and then your work has just begun.
In the commentary authored by Tide’s fictional director of digital video and social media ad integration, Fred Hammond, The Onion wrote:
Just take a minute to check it out for yourself at the Tide website or Facebook.com/Tide, or check out Tide’s totally awesome YouTube channel, which is like a treasure trove of cool, popular videos that everyone loves. And honestly, do yourself a favor and just go to Tide’s website and hang there for a while. It’s a totally awesome place to go and play online games and meet other cool fans of Tide products.
There’s an immense feeling of accomplishment that comes with building a thriving social media community for a brand, and sometimes that accomplishment can go to one’s head.
That moment is usually tempered by an executive request or scathing reply by a Twitter user who doesn’t think you’re as clever as you do.
“At press time, [social media manager Ryan McCann’s] boss asked him to delete several tweets that failed to accurately convey the “Fuddruckers ethos,’” The Onion wrote.
Social media managers aren’t tasked with sending press releases about non-news items to vexed reporters, but you can often be asked to share company news that will do nothing for your social media engagement. Some of that’s necessary, such as your response to COVID-19 or efforts to address systemic racism and support Black Lives Matter.
Other times, you might roll your eyes as you schedule the tweet or Instagram post.
As a fictional Bill Dunn, co-owner of the laundromat, The Onion wrote:
For example, if something happens with Clorox, we can tweet at them from our account and then repromote on Facebook. And if we get a machine fixed, we can tease it on Instagram with a photo and the caption, “Want to wash your clothes? Dryer 5 is open!” We always try to go with those “gotcha” moments, and that’s where Dan really brings his talent and innovation to the table.
In today’s attention economy, your content has to be more engaging than the rest of the messages, videos and visuals constantly bombarding your audience. Crafting bite-size content is a best practice as attention dwindles, but it can also become a buzzword and a source of social media professionals’ frustration when not connected to broader communications strategies.
“At press time, poll respondents reported that when it comes to content, you gotta start thinking more bullet points, more lists, more visuals, more short-form, more microcontent,” The Onion wrote.
Do you have a favorite headline or article about social media management that makes you laugh? Share it with us in the comments. For more amusement, check out The Onion’s ”How to be an influencer” guide or its article titled, “How internet clickbait works.”