Lessons from tweet that showed the recipe for social media success

Now, we could bring you our thoughts on the latest high-profile media interview.

But then we thought it would be much better if we took a look at the story that got Britain talking – whether Weetabix and Heinz baked beans are an acceptable breakfast combo.

There may be more pressing issues right now, but when the cereal’s Twitter account posted a picture of its product smothered in beans, it was met with a mixture of horror and humour.

And extensive coverage.

The posts were shared and liked thousands of times and pulled hundreds of other organisations into the debate. You will be hard-pressed to find a thread that has generated so many responses from other brands.

Google, Ford, Specsavers, the NHS, YouTube and Amazon are just a taste of the brands that shared their thoughts. Police forces turned into cereal offenders, with just about every constabulary getting involved. Even the British and US embassies exchanged opinions on the topic.

On our social media training courses, we talk about how quickly stories move from social media to traditional media. And that was certainly the case here:

Twitter can’t stomach Weetabix and baked beans for breakfast Sky News

Twitter mocks Weetabix new campaign inviting people to eat their Heinz Beanz on the cereals Daily Mail

Weetabix recommends serving Heinz baked beans on their cereals and fans are horrified The Sun

Weetabix criticised for suggesting fans serve cereal with baked beans: ‘Isn’t the world suffering enough?’ Independent


Additionally, Good Morning viewers have been treated – if that’s the right word – to the sight of Piers Morgan trying the serving suggestion live on air.

Even the House of Commons, which should almost certainly be focused on more serious matters, found time to discuss the issue. Jacob Rees-Mogg provided a rambling answer that eventually concluded with him stating his preference was “nanny’s homemade marmalade on toast.”

But, why did this post gain so much interest?

The fact that the breakfast combination included two household names obviously helped.

But the bigger factor here is that it fits perfectly with the current mood of the nation. The country has been in some form of lockdown for almost a year and people are desperate for some light relief and an escape as they battle continued uncertainty and additional pressures, like home-schooling.

There is a huge demand at the moment to hear about unusual, humorous and positive stories amid a seemingly constant supply of bad news.

Just think about some of the other stories that have gained huge interest over the past couple of weeks. We’ve all been gripped by the parish council Zoom meeting that triggered headlines across the world and turned Jackie Weaver into a household name overnight.

And we’ve been enjoying the tail of the Texas lawyer who went viral after telling a judge “I’m not a cat” when getting stuck in a Zoom filter.

Rod Ponton told the BBC: "I did not know that Zoom could turn me into a cat. I did not know that cat Zoom could turn me into an internet celebrity, but it all happened in just a matter of hours."

Another factor is it has that ‘trouble’ element we talk about on our media training courses. The thought of beans on breakfast cereal is controversial, albeit in a light-hearted way. People are either going to love or, more likely, hate the idea, and that naturally triggers conversations and debate.

Is there anything else other organisations can learn from this story?

Well, it is a great reminder of something we stress on our social media training courses - social media isn’t about selling, but that by doing it well you can boost sales.

That may sound contrary, but the Weetabix post showcased its product without telling people to go out and buy it. This was not a serious attempt to convince the nation to try its product with beans at breakfast. Everyone knows that is ridiculous – even people like me who are partial to a peanut butter and apricot jam combination.

But by gaining huge engagement, it has ensured that its product is seen by a wide audience without any advertising. And some of them will have undoubtedly popped the cereal in their trolley after seeing it.

And that’s an interesting point at a time when some brands have been questioning the value of social media and others have gone further and stopped using it.

The other lesson comes from all the many brands that responded to the tweet. To do this well, you’ve got to be able to do it relatively quickly.

Wait too long because you need someone senior to approve joining in the conversation and the opportunity is likely to have been missed.

That said, humour on social media can be tricky. So, even in these times of remote working, it is worth running your response past a colleague before you post it, to make sure it hits the mark. 

Weetabix may have some strange breakfast ideas, but it knows the recipe for social media success.


Media First are media and communications training specialists with more than 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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