Written by Gabrielle Ebron (@gabrielleebron)

During one of the strategic social media class lectures we discussed a term used in the social media world called “newsjacking.” This refers to capitalizing on a breaking news hashtag or trending topic to promote your company, business, brand etc. We saw many epic fails of newsjacking like the clothing boutique that inappropriately tweeted about their “Aurora dress” following the deadly shooting in a Colorado theater.

The correct time to newsjack is when you can appropriately relate your brand to the hashtag/topic without being offensive or jeopardizing your company by causing conflict that will lead to negative backlash. One company that is very skilled at newsjacking is Whataburger.

Whataburger’s Twitter account is one of their main sources for customer service and interaction. They utilize their Twitter as a means to directly resolve customer complaint and give kudos to customer compliment. Many brands have switched to this social media based customer service as it allows for quicker response time.

But not only is Whataburger actively serving the needs of their patty-melt eating customers, they’re also keeping us very, very entertained. They often do this by piggy-backing off trending topics in the media.

In the past couple of months, Whataburger has had some tweets go slightly viral – shaking up the TL nonetheless. I’m sure it would be interesting to study the sales numbers in the hours following their newsjacking tweets see if their sly social media tactics have any impact on conversion.

Here are some of the clever tweets with a bit of context below:


Source: Twitter screenshot by author

Notre Dame: After a double overtime loss to the Longhorns of the University of Texas, Whataburger sent out a tweet to the Fighting Irish reminding them that Texas is on top in more ways than just football. This was one of Whataburger’s most reacted to tweets of the year. It was featured in the headlines of numerous publications, including the web version of USA Today’s sports section.

Vine: On Oct. 27, 2016, Twitter was set ablaze amidst reports that Vine, a video uploading app released in 2013, would be shutting down soon. Vine was the pioneer to social media video sharing and prompted Instagram’s implementing of videos and preceded the app Snapchat. Whataburger of course had to have its hand in the tragic news.

Cowboys: On Nov. 6 the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Cleveland Browns. Tight end Jason Witten had 8 catches and 1 touchdown for a total of 134 yards. There seemed to not be a time Witten wasn’t open, kind of like Whataburger – the 24 hour fast food restaurant.

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs won the World Series on Nov. 2 after 107 years without a title. This was a very historic moment for the franchise and the entire sports world was happy for their accomplishment. However, here in Texas, we can’t go without a few things ourselves – i.e., Whataburger.

Mannequin Challenge: The mannequin challenge is the newest social media craze. A test of standing still with the popular hip-hop song “Black Beatles” by the rap group Rae Sremmurd playing in the background. Many celebrities, sports teams and every day civilians have attempted the challenge and uploaded videos to their social media accounts and thus going viral. Whataburger has not yet uploaded a video on their behalf but we can assume they tried according to their tweet.


Wainwright, Corey. (2012, May 23) The Inbound Marketer’s Complete Guide to Newsjacking. Retrieved from: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/32983/The-Inbound-Marketer-s-Complete-Guide-to-Newsjacking.aspx#sm.00000qajcluwmoe31whq86htdhiuq

Mandell, Nina. (2016, Sep. 4) Whataburger trolls Notre Dame with brilliant tweet following Texas’ 2OT win. USA Today. Retrieved from: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/09/whataburger-trolls-notre-dame-with-brilliant-tweet-following-texas-2ot-win

Published by

UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism