In today’s social media-centric world, it is tempting when a hot topic goes viral to join the conversation, leveraging this massive flow of traffic.

It’s only natural for marketers to envy this chance circumstance and want to use it to their brand’s advantage. There are a few things to consider, however, before jumping into your Twitter or Facebook feed and “newsjacking.”

Let’s explore when brands should align themselves with a popular hashtag or social media catchphrase:

When You Can Make it Your Own 

Everyone wants to reach the millennial market these days, and a great way to go about that is by working certain slang into your marketing strategy. That said, brands run the risk of cheapening their image if this strategy is not well crafted. The key to success is making a catchphrase your own.

A great example is Broad Street Dough Company in Oakhurst, NJ:

In this example, the term “Bae” is used in a very satiric, yet playful way, reframing the concept and drawing the idea back to Broad Street Dough Co’s brand. This brings Broad Street into the conversation without compromising their typical content stream.

Broad Street Dough Co is known for short post copy with delicious and appetizing imagery attached to it, so this post does not compromise their brand voice, making it a perfect example of how brands can make a trending catchphrase their own. 

When It Can Relate to Your Brand 

Newsjacking can quickly backfire for a brand when the topic at hand is completely irrelevant to the brand. It is a marketer’s job to try to draw a parallel between a social conversation and what the company has to offer in terms of products or services.

The following tweet by Audio-Technica is a perfect example of this:

Being a brand that focuses solely on audio products, Audio-Technica seemingly should have no part in a Star Wars discussion on social media. This is where the brilliance comes in. By thinking creatively, Audio-Technica developed a unique social media image using their products that could be used in conjunction with May 4th’s trending hashtag #Maythe4thBeWithYou.

Relating a topic back to your brand can make newsjacking appear more seamless, positioning your brand as a creative, pop culture commentator as opposed to a sly, intrusive marketer.

When It’s Relevant 

Finally (and we can’t stress this enough), timing is everything. Social media is ever changing and so, trending topics come and go by the day. It is imperative that if your brand is going to leverage a popular hashtag that you act fast. There is no time to wait for your legal department or higher ups to approve your posts.

A great example can be seen in lotus823’s own marketing. When Facebook announced its new Reaction feature, we felt it was only right for an integrated marketing communications agency like ourselves to take part in the conversation. So, we developed the following graphic for Facebook:

This post was published to lotus823’s Facebook page very shortly after Facebook’s Reactions functionality was released to the masses. If we had posted this even a week later, our audience would have no longer cared.

Arriving “late to the party” can actually do more harm than good for a brand, positioning them as lackadaisical and irrelevant.

Pro Tip: Measure Audience Reaction 

With all those newjacking tips in mind, we have a pro tip for you! It is always best practice to measure audience reaction when leveraging a trending topic, hashtag or catchphrase on social media. Why? Simply put, social media analysis can make or break your content strategy.

Does your audience respond well to social media graphics or would they prefer photos?

Did your of use the appropriate hashtag render any new followers to your social media profiles?

What has your brand historically posted about and is something upcoming that your audience members may expect you to comment on?

These are all questions social media marketers should be asking themselves when considering a newsjacking strategy. With proper planning and creative execution, leveraging a social media trend is one of the best ways to grow your audience, create a brand image and relate to your current followers.

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