Among many young families, the holiday season brings out the “elf on the shelf” to keep little ones on their toes as they await Christmas.
The recent tradition, popularized with a 2005 children’s book, relies on a small elf showing up daily around the home to watch children for good and bad behavior, and to report activity directly to Santa Claus.
Social media staff at the Washington State Department of Transportation took note of this season’s elf on a shelf posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media and wondered if they could come up with other versions. With their creative caps on, they came up with a few. The one that took off? Well, it involved a bovine. And a plow.
On the WSDOT Facebook page Dec. 9, staff shared its best: “Cow on a plow.”
My cousin shared this Facebook post, and it made me laugh. This would be so appropriate in Minnesota, with all its cows and snow. Our state transportation department needed to get on this ASAP. I reached out to WSDOT, and Mike Allende, WSDOT social media manager, shared how cow on a plow came to be.
After seeing spinoffs of the elf on the shelf trending on social media, Allende says he decided that WSDOT needed one of its own. WSDOT operates with 13 different Twitter accounts throughout the state, so there’s ample opportunity to post creative copy. Initially, he tweeted about WSDOT’s mascot, Mazama the Avalanche Rescue Goat, on a llama. Hence, Mazama on a llama.
“It did OK, as Mazama is pretty popular, but nothing all that great,” Allende says. “One of our communicators out of our Spokane office, Ryan Overton, reached out to me about him doing one from the @wsdot_east Twitter account. I said sure, and we talked about a couple ideas and what might resonate best — and came up with cow on a plow.”
Overton produced the image that was shared on WSDOT’s east Twitter account.
“It pretty quickly got good engagement, so I posted it on our Facebook and Instagram pages as well, and it really blew up,” Allende says. “It has been one of our most popular recent posts across all our platforms.”
After cow on a plow hit Facebook, the comments came rolling in. And of course, WSDOT social media folks responded, milking it for what it’s worth. WSDOT Facebook posts include:
• “We've found that this is really the best way to train our plow drivers to ensure they can concentrate while maintaining a steady hand. They drop that cow and they're done.”
• “…one mis-cowculation and it’s beef for dinner.”
• "... a good chance to remind everyone to mmmmooooovvvvveeeee over for plows.”
Check out the Facebook post at bit.ly/cowonplow.