By Katrina Olson
This article originally appeared 5/11/15 as an Exclusive Feature on tedmag.com.
No matter what media you’re using to promote your company, you can capitalize on opportunities like current events, controversies and even weather-related incidents.
Although winter 2015 is now a distant memory, we can still learn from how smart brands capitalized on the Snowpocalypse (or Snowmageddon).
How can you capitalize on current events?
Social media serves up new opportunities almost daily. Remember #TheDress? At 6:14 p.m. on Thursday, February 26, a 21-year-old Tumblr user asked for help resolving an argument over the color of her friend’s mother’s dress. “Is this dress white and gold, or blue and black?” asked Caitlin McNeill on swiked.tumblr.com.
At 8 p.m., Jon Passantino of Buzzfeed tweeted, “More than half of all traffic on BuzzFeed dot com is on one post right now. I’ll let you guess which.” The post was seen nearly 30 million times and the hashtag had more than 1.4 million tweets in less than 24 hours.
Brands took notice and jumped on the bandwagon, much to the chagrin of loyal Twitter users. Read more here.
Whether or not you like these brands’ “rapid response social media marketing,” they did get attention. Here are a few brands that put a little extra effort into hijacking #TheDress controversy.
Of the three previous examples, the Tide tweet seems the least forced. Tide has more to do with clothing than cars or M&M’s. And although Oreos didn’t have a lot to do with Super Bowl LXVII, the brand’s “You can dunk in the dark” tweet succeeded because of its novelty.
So, what are the rules?
There are no rules; but following these guidelines will help you effectively tie in with current events and opportunities.
1. Be timely. Monitor the media—social and traditional—to see what’s trending. If you’re going to hop on the bandwagon, do it before everyone else does.
2. Be engaging. Use tasteful humor or link to related stories or funny videos. Remember, we’re an increasingly visual society with very short attention spans and a constant need to be entertained. Use that to your advantage.
3. Be customer-focused. If a video of a dog opening a soda (for example) goes viral, ask your customers to share videos of their pet’s special talent.
4. Be relevant. The example in #3 is most appropriate if you own a pet supplies store. What’s happening in your business or industry?
5. Be genuine. Being overly clever or forcing a connection may offend your followers or customers. Be sincere and real in your strategy and communication.
6. Lend your expertise. For example, say the local media reports that fluorescent lights shattered at a school, injuring children. You can suggest safer lighting options to prevent such accidents in the future—in a helpful and informative tone. Also, consider donating lighting to the school to add PR value.
7. Milk it. Or “banana” it, as Groupon did. In March 2015, the online retailer posted the Banana Bunker on their Facebook page. When the predictable jokes started pouring in about this hard plastic tube with a ribbed, collapsible midsection, Groupon could have deleted the item, shut down the page or gone into hiding. Instead, they responded with innocuous remarks about the virtues of the Banana Bunker. (Groupon actually anticipated the response and prepared creative teams to address comments.) The humor was questionable at times, but the response was overwhelmingly positive—with Groupon’s young trendy customers and with the media. Read more here and here.
8. Be true to your brand. Groupon is a relatively new company with a young and loyal customer base who enjoy taking risks, don’t mind standing out in a crowd and enjoy life. Groupon can get away with sexual innuendo; you probably can’t.
9. Be nimble and responsive. When an opportunity arises, be flexible enough to exploit it and responsive enough to do so immediately (as in minutes).
10. Consider the consequences. Did the people at American Apparel think about the consequences of its Hurricane Sandy Sale, or did they just not care? Based on comments by now-fired CEO Dov Charney, the latter seems more likely. Read more here.
The previous guidelines should help you determine how to and how not to capitalize on opportunities. But remember, social media is about building long-term relationships. Communicate with your audiences regularly, in a consistent tone and in a trusting and respectful manner…not just when you want something.
Olson is a veteran marketing and public relations consultant. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.