Trending topic etiquette for brands: a Crocstar guide

Stay on top of what's trending

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Engagement isn’t a one-way street. If you want to see real growth on your social channels, you’ll need to have meaningful interaction with your audience on a regular basis. One way to show your audience you care about the same new stories, current events and memes is to get involved with trending topics.

Trending topics in a nutshell

As we’re writing this #ThrowAShoeAtAFilm, #NationalWatermelonDay and #StrangerThursdays are currently trending on Twitter, but that will have changed by the time you get to the end of this post.

Trends are created (usually on Twitter) when important events are occurring. When princess Charlotte was born, ‘royal baby’ was the most searched google term for the entire day, with a huge 1.1 million people using the hashtag #royalbaby. This made it the top trending subject on Twitter for the next few days.

Get in on the act

Brands can increase reach and visibility by:

  1. Jumping on trending hashtags such as #SharkWeek (a now-infamous schedule of programming on the Discovery channel):


2. Getting involved with popular recurring hashtags such as #MondayMotivation:


3. Celebrating important dates in the calendar:


4. And not-as-important-but-still-fun dates in the calendar:


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5. Starting your own trending topic. This only really works if you’ve got a huge following – big brands have used personalised emojis and bespoke hashtags (we’re avid users of #GameOfThrones complete with an emoji-fied white walker).


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Why do they work?

Trending topics add value to your brand by giving your audience a reason to follow you. Whether they get a lunch break chuckle, an empowering message or some helpful information, you’re offering your audience something useful that they can actually enjoy.

Joining in with the right conversation can also help you to target the right demographic and show how much you understand them. Clothing brand Missguided tweets shareable content during Love Island because an overwhelming number of its target demographic are watching, allowing its content to be shared and seen by a greater number of relevant users.

Is there ever a bad time to jump on a topic?

It’s important to stick with your normal tone of voice and think about topics that are relevant to your brand – only get involved with a conversation when it makes sense for your brand to do so. Your audience wants authenticity, so posts that feel forced can irritate users who may feel you’re trying too hard to be on-trend.

Like anything you do on social media the usual ‘sense check’ rules apply. Polarising debates, political topics and sensitive subjects may not be appropriate for your brand to comment on. It’s also worth noting that humour is subjective and can be a risk if its something your brand isn’t known for, or has an international audience. Need an example of how not to do it? Crocs learnt the hard way with its bizarre tribute to David Bowie.

Can you create your own trending topic?

Brands that use trending topics effectively all have something in common – they’ve started their own. Our favourite of these campaigns fall into three categories:

Inspirational

Always showed how much it cared about gender equality with its inspiring#LikeAGirl campaign, similarly Dove sparked an honest conversation about beauty standards with its insightful #GrowingUpAGirl campaign.

These types of campaigns are effective because they encourage genuine conversation and debate. By empowering users to talk about issues that affect them in their daily lives, these brands are showing a deep understanding of their audience’s needs.

Informative

Letting your audience know what you’re up to in real time is a great way to gauge their response and encourage instant feedback.

BBC Radio 1Xtra sets up hashtags for each of its shows so users can join the conversation. This works because fans feel like they’re part of something special, with their opinions shaping the show. It’s also a sneaky way to spread the message further and generate some user content with complimentary tweets acting as free advertising.

Entertaining

American diner chain Denny’s is the undisputed ruler of surreal Twitter humour. Last year, it ran a campaign that aligned with with its subversive tone of voice perfectly, asking users to send in questions for its signature pancakes. Yep, that’s right.

#AskPancakes might just be the most ridiculous campaign we’ve ever heard of (and may not be suitable for every brand) but it was spot-on for Denny’s weird and wonderful Twitter persona.

How do we do it at Crocstar?

Whether we’re managing our own content or looking after someone else's, we find that good preparation is key to staying up to date with trending topics. For our clients GB Labels, we research events relevant to their audience and make sure we schedule posts to go out in time for #HandmadeHour, #MadeInBritainHour and more.

With our own content we write up a monthly editorial calendar in advance, freeing up time to write reactive posts on the day. We start by researching which holidays and national events are coming up and edit the selection into ones that are most relevant to our brand and audience.

A few months ago we removed National Margarita Day from our calendar because - although we were all pretty keen on celebrating it - it didn’t offer our audience anything new or interesting. We all have to make sacrifices (sob). Instead we focused on Random Acts Of Kindness Day and our birthday.

Trending topics as part of a social strategy

Rather than using your social channels as a brand messaging platform, think of them as a way to spark conversation with your audience. Reactive posts help to show a human side that will make people fall in love with your brand, encouraging them to start a dialogue with you.

When done right, trending topics can help to grow your following and draw attention to your brand. Staying on top of what’s trending can be time consuming, but your audience can become bored if you aren’t making time to join conversations and encourage lighthearted debate.

We can help to give your channels the personal touch. Whether that’s with bespoke social media training to help you spot and plan trending topics or with a helping hand to manage your social media strategy – we’ll help you to create a reactive campaign with impact.