Dr. Seuss, Arby’s Tweets and Bernie Sanders’ Mittens: How to Capitalize on Trends to Maximize Your Content Marketing Reach

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By Katie Clarke

It’s the beginning of the year, and like most companies, you’re probably reflecting on big wins from 2021 and setting marketing goals for 2022. Undoubtedly, social media and other content creation lie somewhere on that list. According to Demand Metric, 90 percent of organizations utilize content marketing.

One obvious strategy is to connect your company or product to online trends—thus magnifying your reach. Your content doesn’t always need to focus on selling, but it should provide value to your audience and promote the core principles of your brand.

Our team reviewed Google’s top searches for 2021 looking for ways to capitalize on SEO, trending hashtags or anything else that might pop out at us. Here are a couple of our favorite findings:

  • Thanks to Bernie Sanders infamous inauguration attire and its resulting memes, nationwide searches for “mittens” reached an all-time high in January.
  • In Florida specifically, searches for “ Seuss books” spiked after publishers shelved six books citing hurtful portrayals of race.
  • Florida joined the rest of the nation in its quest for information about stimulus checks in March.
  • It seems Floridians were also interested in “Walt Disney World Annual Passes,” after the theme park resumed pass sales.

The takeaways are the obvious—you don’t need fancy articles or a developer to deep dive into SEO, keyword searches or meta data. What’s trending IRL (in real life) is also what’s trending online, you just need to connect to it.

Everyone knows we marketers need to tackle trends, but not everyone knows how. Here are some first steps to put your company in a place to recognize, react and reap the benefits of trending content:

1. Set up Your Team for Immediacy

By definition, these are trends, so you need to join to conversation quickly—think real-time marketing. Companies that thrive in SEO are nimble. Too often content takes days, weeks or even months to fully generate, often going through a long list of reviewers. While good practice, it can make it impossible to make a timely impact.

Additionally, reacting to trends steals time away from other tasks. Create a culture in your organization that prioritizes opportunity. A single well-timed tweet, post, video or meme can have a significant ROI.

The classic example of this is OREO Cookie’s tweet during the 2013 SuperBowl power outage.

Findsome & Winmore also hopped on the Bernie Sanders meme train in January.

2. Designate a Trendspotter, then Empower Them

Choose one member of your team to own your brand’s trend responses. It should be someone who is fluent in the multiple languages of social media (Tik Tok, Instagram, etc.), keeps up with local and national news and generally has their finger on the pulse of pop culture. Then empower them to create content instantly (without going through the usual pitch process or company bureaucracy). Give them a straight line to the final decision-maker for approval.

Remember, not every post will be a viral home run. There may be a few strikeouts and lots of singles. But consistency is key, and brands that are known for their marketing prowess don’t make just one post. Encourage your trendspotter to keep trying new and creative things.

3. Discuss Sensitive or Controversial Topics Early (or even ahead of time)

Capitalizing on a funny moment in pop culture takes immediacy, but so does weighing in on sensitive moments in history, such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement, LGBTQ issues, terror attacks or big political moments.

However, these are not decisions that should be made on the fly. Schedule a meeting with your organization’s decision makers to discuss responses to common sensitive topics. Decide as a brand, where and how you want to weigh in.

Best Practice: create guidelines outlining which topics you will or won’t address. Then generate some talking points, clarifying your stance on these issues. This will expedite your trendsetter’s ability to respond to big, controversial events in a way that is consistent with your brand values.

Each brand will have its individual answers for these tough questions. The important thing is to stay true to your core principles. Our client Dix + Hite Partners did just that when they turned the topics of diversity and inclusion inward. Sparked from #blackouttuesday, the company opened up in several blog posts about their efforts to live out their values and be actively anti-racist.

Ultimately, access to technology and information mean the lives of our customers are moving faster and faster each year. Topics, videos, and hashtags seemingly take over the world one minute, but are outdated the next. So, our marketing efforts must shift as well. Learning to capitalize on trending topics in your community can help set any company up for a successful year of marketing in 2022.