It was a simple question asked in the voice of a child. A Muppet child, to be precise.
“Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?” the furry red “Sesame Street” staple asked on X.
The responses poured in. While there were the usual jokes, snark and brand pile ons we’ve come to expect from the platform, there were also a number of truly heartfelt posts that indicate that no, we are not OK.
“I’m kind of a crossroads and frankly could use a little support,” wrote comedian Rainn Wilson.
“I shouldn’t have rushed wanting to be an adult 😮💨😮💨 I need a break big guy,” a user going by the name Hiram Clarkian said.
“Elmo I’m suffering from existential dread over here,” David Leavitt wrote.
The tweet received 14,000 replies, 49,000 retweets, and 122,000 likes as of January 31, 2024. That alone would have been a huge social media win.
But the social media managers on Sesame Street went a step further. They built on the initial post, first using it just to share mental health resources.
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) January 30, 2024
Then they went further.
A shocking number of Sesame Street characters have X accounts. And many of them chimed in and used that platform to model supporting friends through hard times.
“I love being a Snuffleupagus because I have huge ears that are made to listen to you share your feelings. 🤎#EmotionalWellBeing,” Big Bird’s best friend tweeted.
“I’m not great at listening to others share their big feelings, but my worm Slimey is. You should talk with him if you ever need to chat. 🐛💚 #EmotionalWellBeing,” wrote Oscar the Grouch. Good for you for knowing your limits, Oscar.
“Me here to talk it out whenever you want. Me will also supply cookies. 💙🍪 #EmotionalWellBeing,” said … well, we’ll let you guess who said that one.
The president of the United States himself even responded to Elmo’s follow-up tweet.
I know how hard it is some days to sweep the clouds away and get to sunnier days.
Our friend Elmo is right: We have to be there for each other, offer our help to a neighbor in need, and above all else, ask for help when we need it.
Even though it’s hard, you’re never alone. https://t.co/ffMJekbowo
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 31, 2024
These additional tweets racked up tens of thousands of additional impressions (tracked with that hashtag) and spread a message of kindness, compassion and emotional intelligence that Sesame Street is known for. And the overall social media trend racked up tons of media hits, too.
What to take from this success
Sesame Street has a leg up on many other brands. It has massive brand recognition and emotional resonance with nearly any child who grew up in the United States in the last half-century. And adorable puppets. But there are still lessons any brand can take from how they handled the response to their first message.
It’s doubtful that the social media manager who hit “send” on this message thought it would warrant a response from the president’s X account. It was a text-only post. There was no joke, no meme, and no overarching storyline (which sometimes does happen on the Sesame Street Extended Universe accounts).
But sometimes stripping content to the bare essentials can stand out in a field of try-hards. Just look at all the brands looking for a bit of that same attention in the replies to Elmo’s tweet – and then see how the initial post shines all the brighter.
All right, this one’s a bit ironic since Elmo isn’t a person in the classical sense, but the reason the tweet took off is because of the humanity in the tweet. Times are tough: wars are raging, political division is high, everything is madly expensive, it’s the dead of winter in much of the country. And we can all become so enmeshed in our own unhappiness that we forget to check in on others.
But Elmo remembered.
And people responded to the connection they had with the critter, both in earnestness and in jest.
Following up works
You can’t predict which tweets will go viral, but you can certainly control how you respond. The Sesame Street social team quickly moved to involve other accounts, then to share resources, and then used the attention to double down on their mission to help “children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder.” And serving that particular vision matters more than all the views and retweets in the world.
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