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Published on

March 22, 2024


social media, social media marketing, trendjacking, trends

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Trendjacking can be a great way to boost brand awareness through a hashtag, event, meme and more. However, it can be difficult to quickly decipher online chatter and understand if your brand voice and identity align with the trend. Hopping on a trend too quickly can produce inorganic content that isolates your online audience but jumping too late will slot your brand into the “overdone” category.

In this article, you will learn the good, the bad and the ugly of trendjacking from brands who have either reaped the benefits or felt the heat.

Person taking photo of blue lights on mobile phone

Related: Why Twitter Marketing Should Be Part of Your Social Media Strategy

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

Newsjacking through social media marketing is all about creating brand awareness and connecting with your target audience through current trends and trending topics. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between trendjacking and ambulance-chasing. Before hitting send on a trending hashtag, be sure to ask yourself a few key questions first.

1. How and why is this trend relevant to my brand?

All social media platforms have a certain tone and target audience that should remain consistent throughout each piece of content. It wouldn’t make sense for a clothing brand to tweet about National Pancake Day, but IHOP would be missing a key digital marketing opportunity to connect with their core target audience.

However, there are exceptions to the trendjacking rules. For example, check out this Tweet from Oreo after the 2013 Superbowl halftime show blackout:

Oreo as a brand doesn’t have anything to do with electricity or football, but they found a way to insert themselves into the online chatter and landed a viral tweet. Still, be sure to take a step back before jumping on a trending topic and make sure that it aligns with your existing brand identity.

2. Is what I’m trendjacking appropriate?

There are certain topics to avoid completely, no matter how viral they are. Topics like tragedies, serious events and politics are typically areas to avoid on social media. Avoid paying tribute to the death of a notable person unless they had a direct and clear relation to your brand. Take these examples from Cheerios and Cinnabon as a tale of caution:

Tweets from Cheerios and Cinnabon brands

Both tweets were removed shortly after posting, but it’s best for marketers to avoid negative attention in the first place.

3. Do I fully understand the hashtag’s meaning?

Sometimes, the exact topic of trending hashtags isn’t entirely clear. Be sure to conduct research into the origins of the trending topic. There may be a backstory to a trending hashtag that can cause backlash among social media users.

A vague hashtag like #WhyIStayed could seem like a great opportunity for marketers to insert branding into the conversation. Take for example the below tweet from DiGiorno Pizza:

Tweet from DiGiorno Pizza brand

What DiGiorno Pizza, unfortunately, was not aware of until after posting is that the hashtag #WhyIStayed was meant for domestic violence survivors to share their stories about why they stayed in an abusive relationship. DiGiorno Pizza deleted the Tweet shortly after and issued an apology, but screenshots are forever. Avoid making this mistake by thoroughly researching every trending hashtag before posting.

Trendjacking Done Well

Now that we’ve seen examples of trendjacking gone wrong, let’s take a look at how to nail your next social media marketing campaign.

Understand your audience

The first step in creating a clear and successful online brand identity is having awareness of who your audience is, where they are located and what they are interested in seeing. If your audience lives mainly on LinkedIn but the brand hops on a TikTok trend, the content may not land well. Additionally, stay away from trends that misalign with your target audience’s values. This can be isolating to users and your target audience will likely not respond well.

Timely trends only

Social media trends come in and out of style constantly. Timing is everything when it comes to trendjacking since audiences may become disinterested in content that they deem “old.” Take this tweet from Dunkin’ Donuts for example:

In early 2015, the Internet exploded over “The Dress.” Social media was in a frenzy debating over the black and blue or white and gold dress. Dunkin’ Donuts wasted no time jumping in on the trend, decorating two donuts with the now-iconic colors with the caption “Doesn’t matter if it’s blue/black or white/gold, they still taste delicious. #thedress.” The use of the hashtag allowed users deep in discussion to find and interact with the tweet.

This viral moment is a great example of a perfect opportunity for trendjacking since it is lighthearted, easily adaptable to any brand image and was accompanied by a frenzy of online chatter and debate.

Need a hand incorporating trendjacking into your social media marketing strategy? Meet with our social media specialists and let’s chat!

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