Marketing with Social Trends

‘Real-time marketing’ is a phrase which has a variety of different meanings. One meaning is automation marketing whereby a company might compose social media campaigns well in advance but the implementations are rolled out via automation at scheduled times.

However in this post I am referring to real-time marketing as the phenomenon of capitalising on current social media trends, real world events and buzz to leverage your brand and gain new followers.

This is something which requires a bit of creativity but can have huge payoffs in terms of building a following.

How to Find What’s Trending

The first step in real-time marketing is being able to sniff out a trend. Worldwide television events such as sporting World Cups, the Olympics, the Oscars, Presidential Campaigns, latest Movies etc are always good targets to begin with that produce a lot of viral stories you can jump on board with.

For instance shampoo brand Pantene used the 2013 Oscar Ceremony to launch their #WantThatHair hashtag in response to all the talk of hairstyles and dresses during the Red Carpet event.

That hashtag piggybacked on the popularity of the Oscars and garnered Procter & Gamble, makers of Pantene, 41.9 million impressions in three days.

However there are many lesser known events and stories which generate big buzz. Social media recently was trending worldwide for a couple of days straight on whether a particular dress was white and gold or blue or black. To cash in on these types of stories you need to first know what they are. A simple way is to log on to Twitter and browse the ‘Trends’ sidebar to the left of your feed.

It will show current trends based on your geographic location or you can set it to a different region if you want to know the trends say of a country you export to.

How to Cash in on Trends

Before you go rush off and find out what’s trending on Twitter and create some humorous hashtags, it should be noted that there is a right way to cash in on what is trending and a wrong way.

A Dutch airline found this out the hard way when Mexico lost to the Netherlands during the 2014 FIFA soccer World Cup. Their mocking tweet created controversy and a lot of bad publicity and in the end they had to revoke it. Therein lies the first rule of thumb: don’t be cruel; positive tweets perform better than mean-spirited ones.

Secondly, double check your spelling, especially the hashtag. If you don’t, your contributions might be overlooked because people can’t find you, but in any case it just makes your business look unprofessional and illiterate.

Thirdly, while real time marketing has created some huge successes and drove sales for some companies, hashtag hijacking needs to be conducted in a spirit of fun not of sales.

Pushing your products or business doesn’t work for this type of marketing; the companies that experience overwhelming success with this are those that take a timely topic and make light-hearted banter or tongue-in-cheek wit with it.

And what wins them the customers is showing their personality and their ability to be current and relevant in terms of what’s on the mind of their target audiences.

The name of the game isn’t to chase down every trend under the sun but rather to pick carefully ones that are relevant to your demographic and relevant to your brand. You can also use other companies’ failings to your advantage.

The iPhone 6 was in the news a while ago over what has been dubbed #bendgate. In perfect timing KitKit Break (the chocolate bar) released the following tweet “We don’t bend, we #break”. This tweet tied together a topical news item with their brand name.

We’ve discussed the don’t’s; now let’s discuss the do’s:

  • Do use puns, plays on words, irony, sarcasm and wit.
  • Add images if you can for a more impressive effect.
  • Move fast. Release your tweet before the trend moves on.


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