Relating Your Brand to a Trending Topic--3 Tips

We’ve all seen it—those brand posts that attempt to capitalize on a current news event, celebrity controversy or other pop culture phenomenon and just fall flat. However, when brands do it well, followers love it. It can be worth a shot to hop on a bandwagon if you follow these tips:

1. Don’t stretch too far—but if you do, it has to be obvious. As a general rule, it’s safest to only use a trending hashtag, meme, or other format if it’s an easy fit for your brand. However, if you can make an obvious joke or employ irony, go for it. Just make sure your average follower will get your humor. For example, the popular “You vs. the guy she tells you not to worry about” meme was well-used by Jimmy John’s to show off their sandwiches:

2. Be careful with political and social issues.  Don’t use a political or social action hashtag or other reference unless it’s totally necessary—i.e. your brand is on board and actively supporting the message. Always keep in mind you’re running the risk of alienating followers (unless your brand has a specific agenda to begin with). If you make a joke about a polarizing issue, the backlash will be instant. THINX is a feminine product brand that is open about their political affiliations and social causes, so this tweet was low-risk for them—but would have been incredibly risky for many brands:

3. Make sure you check into it. When recreating memes or tagging something, make sure you explore the history and origin of what you’re referencing. Fully understand the setting of the content before you use it. What may have ended up as a funny viral photo could have started as a hurtful joke. A funny sounding hashtag might have a more serious meaning. A well-known example of this is the #WhyIStayed hashtag which was meant to draw attention to the complexities of domestic violence. The DiGiorno® brand did not think it through when they used it in this way (and the controversy was immediate). They deleted the tweet and apologized, but the damage was done.

Success or failure using trending topics depends on the wisdom of your brand’s social media workers. An insightful community manager will be on the forefront of social media every day. Their familiarity with followers and current trends should directly influence the brand’s social media strategy, keeping the brand on target when it comes to trending topics (more information here).

What are some other examples of times a brand has gotten this right or wrong? Tell us in the comments!

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