The above tweet, from Ms. T-Swift herself, epitomizes the social discourse that took place after a photo of an ambiguously colored dress was uploaded to the Internet.
I would go into detail about how dressgate generated 10 million dress-related tweets and its very own Wikipedia page, but let’s be real. #TheDress needs no explanation. You heard about it. And everyone and their mom was fighting about it.
I, too, got caught up in the debate — white & gold, btw — and failed to capitalize on the viral conversation sweeping the nation. It wasn’t until meeting with the Denver Broncos social media crew that I realized how advantageous monitoring trends can be for your social game. The Broncos social media folks creatively deflected the conversation away from #whiteandgold or #blueandblack by transforming #TheDress to match their team’s colors — blue and orange. And the post blew up. So, 127,632 likes, 39,522 shares, and 5,606 comments later, it clicked: Viral conversations such as this are exactly the type of fuel needed to spark a surge in social reach and engagement. As social media strategists, we ought to be on the lookout for opportunities to ride the coattails of a viral sensation by finding ways to blend trending topics with our own brands.
Several months later, another trend was going viral. “Straight Outta _________.” A film about the rise and fall of hip hop group N.W.A. was nearing its release date, and the Internet was buzzing. T-shirts, memes, you name it. People were straight outta everywhere.
Here in Fort Collins, us residents have this thing… we’re kinda obsessed with where we live. So it made sense to put a spin on this trend and proudly proclaim to be Straight Outta Collins using a photo of our mascot CAM the Ram. The post, especially on our heavily student-populated platforms, did well. But it wasn’t just an accident. It was calculated. The caption — C.A.M. — gave nod to N.W.A. from the movie. Collins / Compton — each two syllables and the words sound similar. Our handsome mascot enhanced the element of pride and also portrayed the intentional irony of the graphic. Combining share-worthy ingredients (school mascot, hometown pride) with a potent online trend ended up creating a successful formula. Overnight, the Instagram post became our most liked (it has since been taken over :-] ). The Facebook post accumulated 220K+ reach, 5.5K+ likes, and 1K+ shares.
More recently, we noticed another opportunity. Have you heard about our new #CSUStreetTeam? One of our talented team members took a brilliant photo of the supermoon lunar eclipse, which you also probably heard about. Fortunately for us, the shot was taken from campus. Cha-ching! There was our branding spin that would resonate well with our audience of alumni and current students. This photo practically speaks for itself, but take a look at these stats: 471,899 people reached, 1.5K shares, and 13,904 likes. That’s our most-liked photo ever.
Timing is key. These viral sensations tend to run a similar course. Once they pick up steam, they’re super engaging and fun. And then they’re dreadful. And I don’t want to see one. more. post. about it on my newsfeed. At that point, just don’t even bother, because you’ll lose your social street cred. Monitor trending topics closely so that you can act fast and jump into the conversation while the web is sizzlin’.
Be sensitive. Many times, along with these viral trends comes various cultural undertones. Know your audience and know whether the trend is appropriate. When a topic is all over the Internet, the last thing you want is to also be all over the Internet as an example of “what not to do.”
Start orienting your social compass in the direction of trending topics, and we think you will also have success. So the next time your newsfeed is taken over by a trend with zero chill (see Ashley’s blog for reference), get to trending and reap those benefits.