Viral trends are a combination of things—they’re fun, entertaining, and reflective of what people are interested in. It makes sense that as a social media marketer, you’d want to include some form of popular culture into your social media strategy.
When brands jump on trends, it’s called real-time marketing. While the potential payoff can be huge, the risk is also high.
We’re going to show you how to identify a viral trend that would be good for your business to jump on and how to do so effectively.
How to identify viral trends on social media
1. Monitor hashtags and keywords
Twitter has a Trends section that lists hashtags and keywords that are being widely used in a specific region or globally. In parallel, Facebook’s Trending section features the top articles on trending topics, as well as how many people are “talking about this.”
For the most part, hashtags were invented for users to keep tabs on topics and conversations floating around social media. They make it easier for people to find out more about a subject or news event, or to join in on an existing discussion.
Hootsuite lets you search and monitor hashtags, keywords, and discussions across all your social media streams from one place. The dashboard also makes it easy to engage with users that are posting in a specific area.
2. Learn from industry leaders
Think of digital media giants like BuzzFeed—experts at capitalizing on trends fast.
You should also pay attention to online communities like Reddit—the “front page of the internet”—as so many trends start there.
3. Know when a trend is no longer a trend
Similar to a fashion trend in real life, an online trend has a best-before date. In the digital world where there is so much content and things move so quickly—trends come and go.
Catchphrases, memes, images, videos—all of it spreads rapidly across the internet, and inevitably people will tire of it.
It’s hard to tell exactly when a trend will reach its saturation point, but a good indicator is when more brands than people are involved.
Good indicators of a dying trend are when the creators are brought onto a talk show to discuss it, when the trend is covered in the news, and when it begins to trickle into other mainstream media.
How to know when your business should jump on a social media trend
1. Go back to your business objectives
In any kind of social media marketing strategy, you should establish your business goals and objectives before doing anything. Ask yourself—What are you trying to achieve by integrating this trend into your strategy? Is it to drive brand awareness or more traffic to your website? How will you know if you’ve succeeded—what metrics will you measure?
Hot tip: Use the S.M.A.R.T framework to establish your goals.
Review your business goals and make sure any real-time marketing strategy will align with those.
A good example is when local businesses capitalized on the Pokémon GO fad. Pokémon GO features augmented reality and the nature of the game involves a lot of waiting. By figuring out if their storefront was a Pokestop or Gym, businesses offered discounts to Pokémon GO users which encouraging them to use their services or products while they played. These businesses made sales, generated brand awareness, and created a sense of relevancy around their brand.
2. Keep an eye on competitors
You and your competitors are fighting for the same audience, business, and industry recognition.
If your competitors are on a trend, it might make sense for you to be too. Of course the best thing to do is to get to it before they do.
How to capitalize on a viral trend effectively
1. Research, research, research
Be sure to fully research a trend before jumping on it. A trending topic might be circling the internet at warp-speed, but if it’s totally unrelated to your brand it won’t work.
A little research would have come in handy for a butcher who wanted to commemorate singer Prince with a plate of purple sausages. He took to Twitter to promote his purple tribute to the recently deceased singer. Turns out, Prince was vegan. The local butcher ended up angering animal rights activists and received a letter from PETA.
— McKaila (@K102Kaila) April 27, 2016
The butcher’s Tweet has since been deleted, but the damage was done. A simple fact-check would have saved the man a lot negative press.
2. Move quickly
Trends have expiration dates. While it’s important that you do research before adding the latest internet craze into your social media strategy—it’s equally important to be quick on your toes once you’ve got your research down.
To make the most of a trend, make sure you’re acting at the right time. That means having your organization establish trust in the team or person who’s running your social media. This avoids having to go up a long chain of approval when you’re ready to strike with your own Salt Bae meme.
For example, when everyone started coordinating their own version of the Mannequin Challenge, Hootsuite’s social team knew it was time for our brand to get in on the action. For these time-sensitive situations, it’s extremely valuable to have earned the trust of higher-ups—this trust allowed for our social team to go from idea to execution very quickly.
3. Don’t force it
On the flipside of being prompt when it comes to getting viral content out the door—make sure you think twice before sending out that post. Don’t feel pressured to jump on every single trend, as it might not come off the way you were hoping.
Look what happened to the Victorian Taxi Association on Remembrance Day. They attempted to tie the somber #RemembranceDay hashtag to their business. It was not the best call.
— Jamus (@JamusOT) November 11, 2015
As you might have guessed, this earned the taxi company a lot of bad press.
While it’s important to stay up-to-date when it comes to social media, zoning in on the latest internet sensation won’t make or break your brand. If it so happens that your brand isn’t suited for real-time marketing, learn more about what right-time marketing can do for your social media strategy.
Whether you’re real-time marketing or keeping your postings business as usual, Hootsuite can help. Schedule posts, engage with followers, and measure the success of your efforts. Try it free today.