Social Should Be Subtle: Ways You’re Misusing Trending Topics

Everyone wants their brand to be part of the conversation, but sometimes it pays off more to be selective with social trends.

It’s hard not to jump on a trend exploding on Twitter and Facebook. Everyone wants their brand to be part of the conversation, but sometimes it pays off more to be selective with social trends.

Savvy social managers know your brand should only hop onto what’s trendy if it makes sense. What does that look like? It can look like a lot of things.

It doesn’t mean you can only tweet about the Grammys if you’re a music app or luxury designer for the likes of Lady Gaga, for example. But you can’t just turn on the faucet and dribble out “#Grammys” all night long either – especially if the only reason you’re doing it is because everybody else is. That’s no way to stand out.

Some events — like the Grammys — you know will trend. You can easily prepare a plan of attack if it makes sense for your brand to participate in the social conversation happening for the duration.

Other trends just happen — and that’s when having well-honed reflexes on social helps. Something like the lights going out at the Super Bowl is pure luck — but capitalizing on it was pure skill by Oreo.

If you regularly participate in real-time social listening, you’ll have a sense of the “temperature of the room” – as well as the ability to think on your feet – when you want to chime in on those lucky moments.

To jump or not to jump, that is the question

The question to ask is always “What’s the potential gain for my brand?” There won’t always be any, and jumping on something that’s hot “just because” can actually backfire. In-your-face brand messaging is a big turnoff for consumers, so you have to carefully weigh the value of jumping into the fray.

If you decide it’s worth trend-hopping, watch your approach. Humor can be a great way to leverage a trend, but this can also backfire if your audience doesn’t appreciate the joke, or finds it at odds with how they see your brand.

The best approach is always one that comes from a place of authenticity. And sometimes it’s not even a major trend or event that gets the best results.

The Brand24 blog chronicles the domino effect that followed Volvo jumping on a single tweet — which brought attention to multiple brands in a way no ad campaign could have. Here’s how it began:


What happened next turned into an exceptional PR opportunity for not only Volvo and the paintball company, but Audi was able to win big here as well. And this unlikely series of events was all made possible through social listening. Each of the brands that participated was paying attention, and jumped on a relevant near-real-time trend in just the right way.

Embrace the opportunity, don’t exploit

And what is that right way?

Human to human, versus brand to prospect. Being a bit clever, or funny, or heartfelt — as the case may be — is what will grab consumers on social. Because basically, as Contently reminds us, “self-promotion kills consumer trust in branded content.” That includes social posts.

Some brands just can’t help themselves though – they want to jump on every hashtag and pop culture moment that crops up, no matter how tenuous the brand connection. If that’s your brand, maybe it’s time to seek professional help? Seriously though, trendjacking is apparently an addiction for some folks and there really should be a hotline to call, because even using one or two hashtags out of place can kill your cool factor – or worse. There’s a thin line between being active on social media and being overactive and alienating your followers.

Be sure to monitor your social feeds for emerging trends that make sense for your brand – and exercise restraint when the #FOMO (fear of missing out) creeps in. Or you’ll not only be missing out, you’ll be driving potential clients to your competitors with a quickness.

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