Trendjacking: An Art and a Science
Regardless of what everyone thinks about social media and its various effects on user behaviour, consumer patterns, and society at large, one consensus about the digital world is that trends are ever-evolving. New challenges, music, videos, or celebrities can explode across the world in a matter of hours. However, the following logic is true as well; things can get old quickly too. The turnover rate for what is considered the ‘in’ thing in social media is monumentally faster than in traditional media like TV shows or news outlets. As such, brands must choose which trends to make full use of.
Social Trends for Business Ends
Like it or not, engaging with target audiences is more than telling them about your products. As the name suggests, social media is first and foremost a personal platform, before it is an advertising one. It is important to speak to your target audience about things they are interested in, and this invariably includes trending topics.
Because of the popularity of these topics in question, a brand’s content gains relevance when referencing or leveraging them. Imagine trying to join a conversation of ten people when you don’t know what they’re even discussing. Social media is the biggest conversation in the world, and your brand’s social media allows you to be part of that conversation. Make sure you do it right by finding out what everyone else is talking about, and then chiming in. Brands like eToro and MSi, and even activist groups like UN Women and The Dinosaur Project leveraged the #10yearchallenge, joining in on the conversation to make their voices heard. These brands successfully improved their share of mind by posting throwback images that were relatable to their audiences. eToro, for example, highlighted the company’s growth by posting photos that showcased the difference between their old and new platforms.
eToro’s #10yearchallenge post
This demonstrates how new trends and conversations can help brands to achieve greater top-of-mind awareness.
How then can brands better track the trends that matter?
Remember when you were a teenager? Even without a phone, it’s likely that you were pretty tuned in to the latest happenings thanks to your existing networks in school and at home.
In today’s world, however, even if you’re checking your Twitter feed every few minutes, you may not pick up on the latest trends, let alone determine if something is suitable for your brand to leverage on. After all, what’s worse than ignoring a trend is to jump on it too late or to use it incorrectly (new Pikachu movie? May the 4th be with you!) Not to mention that it seems like a lot of work to frequently scour the Twittersphere for the latest hot topics. How then do the top dogs in the industry seem to do it so effortlessly? It’s like they have your teen cousin’s eye for trends, your copywriter’s wordsmithing skills, and an endless amount of time to put them to use.
The truth is much simpler. The best marketers don’t monitor digital trends manually, they use social listening software solutions to do it for them. With a customised dashboard of detailed information available at their fingertips, they can immediately catch up on the latest trends and hit them at the apex of their popularity. Check out Adidas HK’s social-first campaign, which correctly identified the Adidas Runners community in the city as being both highly engaged and influential on Instagram, creating tailor-made Stories for the community ‘captains’.
But what trends to look at, and what conversations to join in? Meltwater Explore provides you with a comprehensive view of the conversations that impact your brand, products, and industry across multiple channels. With unlimited searches and full historical data from up to 15 months, you can access reviews, online news, articles on blogs and forums, and data from social channels such as Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook. In addition, you can perform searches on-the-go with our mobile app, or obtain reports to track your progress. As such, these insights can help you to improve your social strategy and keep up with rising trends.
So you’ve gotten your keywords, zoomed in on your target audience, monitored their sentiment, and created a dashboard for quick and easy use. Given the speed of social media, it is almost certain that you will come across a potential trend on a regular basis. How do you determine if the buzz will last or if it’s just a passing fad? Even region-specific digital trends are hard enough to stay on top of. Assuming that you intend to do so, there are some qualitative factors you will need to consider when crafting your own social posts or communicating with your audiences. This goes beyond evaluating the popularity of a topic or whether the surrounding sentiment is positive or negative.
First of all, be very sure that you’re ‘in’ on the joke. Trends may seem superficial because they are fast-moving, but that doesn’t mean that there is no nuance or depth to them. If it’s a famous phrase, make sure that you get the phrase right; imagine translating Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous line: ‘I’ll Be Back’ as ‘I Will Be Back Later’. Getting an iconic phrase wrong is even worse than a simple misquote or grammatical error because that inaccuracy sticks out like a sore thumb. Everyone knows the phrase, but you just got it wrong.
Look no further than the most prolific mis-Tweeter of our era. United States President Donald Trump attempted to trendjack popular TV series Game of Thrones, borrowing the show’s famous moniker ‘Winter Is Coming’ in reference to his plan to enact sanctions on Iran. However, there was a glaring mistake that most fans of the series noticed immediately. “Winter” in the series is a nightmarish scenario brought on by the ultimate antagonist of the series, the Night King.
Donald Trump’s tweet references Game of Thrones
By hopping on a trending topic without fully understanding it, Trump mistakenly painted himself as an evil villain and anyone who opposed him as the heroic defenders of the wall. HBO themselves were unamused, releasing a statement saying that they hoped their creative material would not be used for political purposes.
HBO’s response to his misuse of the reference
Secondly, don’t just quote the topic in question. Ensure that you are monitoring responses to the topic as well (taking a cue from popular influencers or viral posts/tweets is one way to do this). Sometimes, the response to a topic is what’s cool to say, not the topic itself. Or perhaps it is the creative adaptation of a meme format into your own brand’s context that makes it funny. Regardless, you’ll need to examine the trend with quite a careful eye. Keeping your brand’s own identity and target audience in mind is vital in utilising trends correctly and effectively.
Thirdly, it’s great if you get the joke. Will your audience understand it too? On top of that, the connection between your brand and the topic in question has to be explicit, whether this point is made via visuals or copy. It’s perfectly fine if the trend is not something directly related to your brand, but you have to fill in the gaps creatively without it seeming forced. As difficult as it may be to gauge something subjective, the best thing to do besides thinking about it carefully is to ensure that you have access to real time, qualitative, and targeted data.
Finally, trends can be political. Your dashboards may pick up on hot topics, but you have to be aware of the social context that your brand operates in. Sometimes, it’s not just about coming in on the right side of positive or negative. Some issues are highly polarising — half may feel strongly about their stand, while the other half is adamant that they are all wrong. Nike and Gillette are 2 brands that come to mind. In this case, there is no way to win — you will gain the support of one side and invoke the ire of the other. However, there could be a case where your brand’s target audience happens to side quite uniformly with one party. If this is the case, it may very well be not only appropriate, but also commendable to take their stand.
As with all trendjacking, it is both an art and a science, and you will need the best tools in order to make the best decisions to prepare for it. Ready to kickstart your trendjacking journey? Get started with Meltwater’s social listening tools today!