Social media trends come and go. One day, every post on your feed will have “Little Miss” in it, and the next, it’s filled with Titanic submarine memes or Barbie-fied products.
With social media moving at the rapid speed of culture, trends are already difficult to keep up with, but brands have a particularly narrow and pressure-packed window to participate. One perfectly timed and toned post can make a brand go viral. Likewise, one poorly executed or tone-deaf post can make a brand go viral for all the wrong reasons.
The risk is high, and so is the reward. But when should brands join in on the conversation? We turned to one of Mythic’s resident social experts, Madeline Stone, for the do’s and don’ts of jumping on a social media trend as a brand.
First, let’s start with the ground rules. As mentioned, social media trends quickly come and go, so Stone, a Senior Social Media Manager at Mythic recommends considering: “Is conversation picking up or dropping off?” With timeliness being critical to successfully following a trend, social listening can help you decipher if the trend is starting to grow or not. “It’s never too early, but it’s always too late,” Stone states.
Social listening also plays a critical role in providing you information about a trend, she says, and can answer key questions such as:
After evaluating the timing and context of the topic at hand, you should have a better feel for whether this is a conversation worth joining or not.
Red flags to watch out for
To help a brand not end up on the wrong side of history, there are a few “watch outs” to look for when a trend is starting out. First, it’s important to determine if the origin of the trend is too negative for the brand. If it’s about hating on something or someone, a brand ought not attach itself to it. Likewise, if the trend could have a double meaning or carry a potentially disparaging insinuation, it’s best to stay away.
“Negativity is the biggest factor,” Stone says, “and if there’s any chance that the trend could be too negative, you don’t want to participate, especially if your brand is about spreading positivity.” Always double check to ensure what your brand is about to engage with is not overly negative or completely counter to what the brand stands for.
Additionally, make sure that the timing of your post is in line with when the rest of culture is talking about a trend. Take this Heinz post, for example. There’s seemingly nothing wrong with it, until you see the date it was posted: August 1. The Barbie movie was released in theaters on July 21— that’s 10 days before Heinz posted their brand collaboration. Plus, this was after an entire summer of Barbie marketing hype and brand collaborations.
In the end, Heinz was called out for jumping on the trend too late, with comments pouring in like, “creativity at the speed of legal” and “you’re a bit late on the trend, buddy.” Stone reminds brands that “if it’s too late, it’s better to not do it at all. People are pretty savvy, so they can tell when you’re late to the game, and then they’ll make fun of you for it.”
What could happen if things go well
On the other hand, if done well, jumping on a trend can be very beneficial for brands. Of course, increasing the brand’s likes, engagement rates, clicks, and other typical KPIs are the rewards that first come to mind. There are, however, additional pros to aptly participating in cultural conversations, including:
By “trendjacking” the famous TikTok of Nathan Apodaca riding his skateboard to work while singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” this TikTok by Kiel James Patrick, attempting to promote his sweater business, garnered 16.4K comments and exposed thousands more to his brand. This is just one example of the power of timely, socially relevant marketing.
In all, brands have the ability to capitalize on social trends that are in tune with their overarching mission, vision, or personality. How and when they go about it, though, can be the difference between becoming famous or going down forever in infamy. “There are some ways to do it right,” Stone says, “but there are so many ways to do it wrong.” Is the reward worth the risk? Better decide before it’s too late.
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