Working in social media over the years, I thought I had a handle on wacky holiday occasions and memes. That is, until I moved to London and was introduced to #EdBallsDay.
— Andy Lang (@HRH_Duke_of_Url) April 28, 2015
So, what exactly is #EdBallsDay? It’s both a day and a person. The day is April 28th, and the person is Ed Balls (yes, that’s his real name). Ed Balls is a British politician—in official terms, the Shadow Chancellor and Labour candidate for Morley and Outwood. He’s also the subject of a quirky internet meme that’s still going strong after four years.
It all started four years ago when Ed Balls wanted to see what people were saying about him on Twitter. Not familiar with the platform, Ed Balls mistakenly sent out a tweet with his name, instead of using the search feature.
Ed Balls — Ed Balls (@edballsmp) April 28, 2011
It’s a simple mistake, right? Well, not for Ed. His simple Twitter misstep turned him into an overnight social media sensation. So much so that every April 28th, fans of the holiday come together on Twitter to share their #EdBallsDay stories, or simply tweet their names to commemorate the occasion.
— Lily Bailey (@LilyBaileyUK) April 28, 2015
Naturally, UK brands also jumped in on the #EdBallsDay fun.
Spotify made an #EdBallsDay playlist.
— SpotifyCares (@SpotifyCares) April 28, 2015
Pizza Hut UK turned Ed’s name into a happy looking pizza.
— Pizza Hut UK (@pizzahutuk) April 28, 2015
GNC UK noted they were, “Grabbing life by the proverbials,” and hosted a giveaway of appropriately named Bounce Balls.
— gnc.co.uk (@gnc_co_uk) April 28, 2015
But, it wouldn’t be #EdBallsDay unless the man himself joined in. As he did, at 4:21pm, only one minute late off of his original 4:20pm tweet four years ago.
— Ed Balls (@edballsmp) April 28, 2015
So, what can you takeaway from this hilarious occasion?
The best memes and trending topics make light of situations and human behavior.
I’m guessing Ed Balls isn’t the first person to accidentally tweet a search term on Twitter. However, he does have a comical name and is a public figure. His relatability in the situation and public persona sparked enough of a reaction from followers and the news media to take a simple action to the next level. When looking for memes or trending topics to play off of, consider what is accessible, relatable, and interesting to your fanbase.
It’s okay to “memejack,” or create your own play on popular memes or trending topics of the moment.
Memes and trending topics get shared the most when they cleverly introduce a new take on a topic (remember #thedress?). When creating their own spin on an existing meme or trending topic, the key for brands is to do it in a clever and original way that’s also relatable to your brand voice and values. Playing with your product, brand colors, a key tagline, or tone of voice you’re known for can all be creative levers to pull in, depending on the topic.
Do your research. And then do it again.
It’s always important to look before you leap on social media. While humorous, #EdBallsDay may not be for every brand. Make sure you deeply understand a trending topic or meme before you jump in.
Defining what real-time marketing means to your organization ahead of time is critical. The humor, fun, and glory of shooting off a clever one-liner is tempting, but can also cause damage if not done properly (re: DiGiornio’s tweet). Plan ahead when you can, for occasions like Talk Like a Pirate Day or Star Wars Day, but be nimble and thoughtful of new or trending topics you’re not as familiar with.