When the Hallmark Channel made the decision to pull several Zola commercials featuring a same-sex couple kissing, the internet erupted with mixed emotions and responses.
After pressure from the conservative group One Million Moms led to the network’s decision to pull the ad, the Hallmark Channel became the target of thousands of angry Twitter users and high-profile celebrities. Despite reversing its initial decision, the Hallmark Channel remains embroiled in a Christmas controversy with hashtags like #BoycottHallmark trending all weekend. Even a network competitor, Freeform TV, found a way to weigh in on the controversy with its own Tweet throwing shade.
Safe to say, it only took a few days for the Hallmark Channel to go viral online and for #BoycottHallmark and #AdsThatShouldBePulled (a new hashtag in response to the controversy) to become Twitter trends. Specifically for Freeform TV, the Hallmark Channel controversy was an opportune moment to capture some of their competitor’s clout while highlighting their own brand’s values. The opportunity to chime in on the conversation around trending topics like this can be a boon for brands that capitalize on them, like Freeform TV.
But not every viral moment is worth commenting on, and in some instances it can actually harm brands eager to provide their two cents. There’s a time and place for everything, and for social media managers this includes knowing when to hit send on a Tweet—and when to keep something in your drafts. Read on for examples of how to successfully engage and a list of questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re getting the most out of popular Twitter trends.
Timing is everything…
One brand taking full advantage of rising Twitter trends is the popular streaming service, Netflix. The brand is known for sounding like its millennial audience and is often one of the first brand Twitter accounts to talk about what’s trending and to incorporate the latest memes into their content. Additionally, Netflix isn’t afraid to showcase the brand’s personality on Twitter, a factor that 45% of consumers say strengthens their feelings of connection with a brand.
In short, Netflix is winning the social media game because it knows how to create content that resonates with its audience—and other brands are taking note. So when the brand Tweeted about the latest viral internet joke, it took less than a day for corporate accounts to lend their voice to the Twitter thread.
Responses from the usual suspects, like Wendy’s and Hot Pockets, popped up in the conversation but we also saw less quirky and decidedly wholesome brands like Groupon, HGTV and Petco chime in as well. The end result? A hilarious Twitter thread filled with brand accounts ranging from all industries and audiences that caught the attention of Twitter users all over the country.
In a similar move, Aviation Gin jumped at the chance to respond to the viral Peloton commercial by casting the wife in a parody ad. Despite not even mentioning the Peloton brand by name, the Aviation Gin response worked for several reasons: it was released within days of the original ad and the Peloton wife was still a trending topic on social media.
When it comes to taking advantage of trending Twitter topics, timing is everything—trending moments are fleeting and once they’re gone, they’re gone. If you’re thinking about joining a lively Twitter conversation, take into account factors like when the topic first started to trend; any response that doesn’t come within the first 24 hours may be too late (remember “Cheddar Bey Biscuits”?). Additionally, think about your brand’s role in the conversation: there’s a time and place for brands to stand out, and then there are moments where simply being a participant is the right approach.
If you’re itching to hop on a hot Twitter trend, ask yourself the following questions before diving in:
- How does the situation align with your brand’s values and messaging goals?
- What is there to gain (or lose) by responding to this Twitter trend?
- Are the right key stakeholders aware of the Tweet you’re about to send, or does a larger conversation need to take place?
But don’t forget to read the room
When done right, brands that take advantage of Twitter trends benefit from increased engagement and impressions. It’s also less work for brand accounts to jump on existing viral moments instead of attempting to create those events themselves.
But just because something is trending doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for brands to comment on. If a topic doesn’t align with your brand’s values or runs counter to your brand’s public image, consider the consequences that might occur if you hit send on a Tweet. Chase Bank, for example, attempted to copy a viral meme for its “Monday Motivation” post offering budgeting tips that drew significant backlash online. Social media users pointed out the bank’s own financial perils in 2008 and were quick to label the Tweet as tone-deaf. The bank ultimately deleted their original Tweet.
Likewise, some trending topics are best left alone by brands entirely. A quick look at the hashtag #AdsThatShouldBePulled, inspired by the recent Hallmark and Peloton controversies, reveals the majority of the conversation is driven by individual Twitter users, not brands. If a brand were to chime in, how would that alter the conversation? In this type of situation consider steering clear of the dialogue and monitor what people are saying to inspire your next batch of social content. When social media managers take the time to read the room, they’re better able to determine whether a brand response is warranted, or even appropriate.
Ask yourself this:
- What will our brand be adding to the conversation?
- How do you expect your customers and target audience will perceive your brand’s Tweet?
- Is there a contingency plan in place for when a Tweet starts to gain traction?
Before hitting send, take five with your team
Capitalizing on trending topics can help brands raise their social profile and inspire engaging, creative content. Brands like Netflix and Popeyes are industry leaders when it comes to identifying which trends they want to leverage and which ones they’re saying “no thanks” to.
As you think about your own social media strategy and how your organization engages with Twitter trends, having a plan in place can help you jump on those timely conversations. While no one can predict the next viral moment, you can create a process to prepare for those opportunities. Things to consider include:
- Who are the key stakeholders and what does the approval process look like?
- What creative assets (e.g. copy, artwork) are needed to execute a timely Tweet?
- How will you track and measure your work after hitting send?
With the right timing, context and buy-in from your team, any social media manager can take advantage of what’s trending on Twitter. But contributing for the sake of contributing can backfire and even damage your brand’s reputation online. So the next time you spot a trend beginning to take off on social media and see other brands chime in, ask yourself: to Tweet, or not to Tweet?