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Biggest Brands Embrace an Obscure Online Subculture

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An image tweeted by the self-described extremely online Nosfera2Chainz (@dubsteppenwolf).

Extremely Online is a term describing an Internet subculture that loosely means "to be familiar, even obsessed, with the things everyone is talking about."

Credit: Nosfera2Chainz

We all spend a significant amount of time online, but no matter how often you scroll through Instagram or sink time into Facebook, you're still just a rookie compared to those who are Extremely Online.

If you've ever heard someone drop the term "bae" to describe a crush or significant other, you've encountered the language of the Extremely Online.

If you've heard about "cancel culture," the practice of boycotting problematic people and brands on social media, you've encountered the effects of the Extremely Online.

If you're just generally confused about the plethora of strange terms and inside jokes referenced by people in the know on Twitter, you're feeling the effects of the Extremely Online.

Extremely Online is a term that loosely means "to be familiar, even obsessed, with the things everyone is talking about," according to digital media company The Daily Dot. It's an Internet subculture, an online in-crowd that relies on inside jokes, special lingo, and obscure references to communicate.

In 2019, the Extremely Online seem predominately to use Twitter to keep up a constant stream of commentary, criticism, and humor, expressed in what can sometimes sound like a different language than English. The Daily Dot identifies the Extremely Online as mostly "media professionals and microfamous humorists who are all fluent in the same particular set of references."

Extremely Online is both an identity and a way of life. Notes the Korn Ferry Institute, "Extremely Online is used as a personal descriptor as much as a verb. One is Extremely Online in the way one is a Democrat or a Cubs fan. The Extremely Online have their own vernacular, social norms, and hierarchies." Nathan Allebach, social media director at Allebach Communications, has even produced a definitive glossary of terms, acronyms, rules, and laws to help people decode the language of the Extremely Online.

Even if you don't encounter the Extremely Online on a daily basis, you'll probably start hearing from them more, because their lingo, jokes, and references are being adopted by the world's biggest brands.

Good for business

Since its inception, Twitter has been a marketing channel for consumer brands. Early on, however, companies weren't that good at using the platform, committing very public mistakes, tweeting tone-deaf comments, and trying very hard to look cool (and failing).

That is, until Denny's came along; yes, Denny's, the diner chain.

According to a history of brands on Twitter written by Allebach, Denny's joined Twitter in 2013 and started sharing content that adeptly riffed on the popular online subcultures, language, and inside jokes of the Extremely Online.

As a result, the company's audience exploded.

Today, what seemed like a weird corporate branding trend back in 2013 has become the norm for social media savvy companies. Other companies have cribbed the Denny's playbook and built entire online personas around the sometimes-unrecognizable patois of the Extremely Online, finding it extremely good for business.

Allebach himself is living proof of the approach's effectiveness. He's behind one of the biggest success stories of brands going Extremely Online—the Steak-umm Twitter account. The company, which sells frozen steaks, tweets out content and messages that sound more like they're written by a super-savvy online influencer rather than a boring food brand. As a result, the company's online following has increased ten-fold since late 2017, growing the company's sales in the process.

By going all-in on being Extremely Online, Allebach has taken the company from worn-out family-owned brand to worldwide sensation.

He's not alone. Plenty of other branded social media accounts, including Taco Bell and Wendy's, dominate Twitter using the cultural cred of acting like the Extremely Online.

Now, Allebach says, brands are taking the approach to other platforms, with Slim Jim jerky snacks and Gushers candies being particularly noteworthy as "meme champions" of Instagram.

"Brands are now rolling with the punches and embracing their 'fellow kids' presence as meta and ironic to attract Extremely Online audiences to their content," Allebach says.

Interestingly, it's often the older or less-popular brands who are mastering this new game. "It's mostly underdog or legacy brands pushing the boundaries because they have more to gain and less to lose by taking risks," says Allebach.

Who says you can't teach an old brand new tricks?

Logan Kugler is a freelance technology writer based in Tampa, FL, USA. He has written for over 60 major publications.


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