In the dual golden ages of internet and snark, individuals and companies are offered many opportunities to decide how to deal with people using social media to have fun at their expense. In most cases, this goes exactly how you'd imagine: strong-arm tactics to shut down social media accounts, lawsuits to silence fake or parody accounts, and even entire government agencies getting upset over one of its own tweeting against the agency line. Missing in all of this, as you may have noticed, is any sense of humor or fun about this sort of thing.
But level heads do occasionally prevail. Such appears to be the case with the folks at Table Talk Pies, a century-old pie-slinging company that decided in the past few years to have a better online presence, but also recently discovered someone out there is impersonating the company on Twitter.
Take a quick glance at Table Talk Pies' Twitter account and at first, everything seems normal. The 95-year-old Worcester company often tweets out its “pie of the day” deals – three of a daily rotating flavor for the special price of $1 – posts photos from events around the city and gets mentioned by other local businesses like Wormtown Brewery.
But a closer look reveals some strange inconsistencies.
“the honorable, pumpkin is 3 for $1 today”
“as the sun shines regardless, may luck be ever on the side with you!! #StPatricksDay2018 #pies #lucky”
“have not only a lemon but i smile! #threeforonedollar”
So, someone appears to be having some rather nonsensical fun pretending to be Table Talk Pies online. It's all rather bizarre, with the impostor account mostly tweeting out entirely accurate information about Table Talk's daily promotions, or just pimping the company's pies as hard as possible. But often the tweets do take a turn towards the strange.
the pumpkin is big is me! 3 for $1 today
— Table Talk Pies (@tabletalkpies) December 13, 2018
It goes on like that. But what makes this somewhat unique is that the folks behind Table Talk Pies are both absolutely obsessed with finding out who this person is and with making sure everyone knows they're totally cool with the impostor account.
"It's very strange," Table Talk Pies retail store manager Caitlin Enck said. "We don't even want them to stop at this point, honestly, because everybody loves them."
After they discovered the strange messages, Enck contacted Twitter hoping to get information that could lead to the owner’s identity, but the company said it was unable to share the user’s IP address or email. Unless the account was posting derogatory tweets or slandering Table Talk, Enck was told nothing could be done.
“We could be super jerks about it and do the whole cease and desist thing, but why? They’re not doing anything wrong, they’re not hurting anybody,” she said. “All the things that would make us, as a company, be like, ‘This isn’t cool, we don’t want our name attached to it,’ they’re not doing. So their tweets are a little weird and don’t always make sense? They’re not hurting anybody.”
Which is the exact right filter through which to view all of this. Rather than trying to strong-arm whoever is behind the account, instead there's something of a following because it's an impostor account, leading to more coverage and information getting out about Table Talk's pies. And with this approach, the company comes off in a way that is earning it some public good will. Now, it's certainly occurred to us that this might be a big marketing ploy to have the company go viral. But if it is, it's extremely well done, and Enck comes off as genuinely obsessed with finding out who this is without being threatening about it.
“It has this cool mystique to it, it’s this really funny thing,” Nelson said. “We’ve known a little over a year now. It’s been crazy. I’ve gone through and tried to figure it out, we cannot figure it out to save our lives. I’ve become obsessed with it.”
"It's supposed to be a quirky, funny thing, and all of a sudden I'm detective Olivia Benson and this is a crime and I'm so far deep into it I can't get out," Enck added.
This is all to say that there are other options beyond being a jerk when these types of rogue accounts pop up. In this case, the account wasn't doing anything particularly negative as far as the "victim" company was concerned. But that's often the case elsewhere as well, where big corporate interests can't find their own sense of humor in dealing with it. In other words, there is potentially much to be gained by not going full protectionist, a lesson far too many companies need to learn.