How to Harness Trends for Content Marketing

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A person is seated, using their phone and laptop, analyzing social media trend data
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In 2020, Nathan Apodaca posted a TikTok of himself skateboarding and drinking Ocean Spray while listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” It went viral, pushed the song to #1 on Apple Music, and inspired countless memes and remakes. TikTok compiled some of the most popular videos into a television ad, utilizing the trend by spotting its rising popularity and capitalizing on its momentum.


With 3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video shared daily by individuals and brands alike, marketers are faced with a daunting challenge as they try to reach their target audience. Using trends can help brands to leverage a platform’s algorithm to get content noticed, and can even translate to marketing across mediums, as the TikTok commercial did. Creators can’t rely solely on trends to build a lasting audience, but they are a great way to connect with new audience members. 


Trend Lightly

Knowing your audience, and what resonates with them, will help you determine whether you should join certain trends. You can also use Google Trends or social media listening tools to find out what topics are gaining traction. Before producing your trending content and hitting ‘post,’ consider these questions:


1. Does It Fit Your Brand?

It is probably not the best idea to try to use a TikTok dance challenge for certain messages, or to use a meme on Twitter that is irrelevant to your brand. These things may be topical for a moment, but they may not resonate with your target audience. Make sure what you’re posting is authentic to your brand and don’t try to make an idea fit a trend if they are incompatible.


2. Could It Be Offensive or in Poor Taste?

When Pepsi and Kendall Jenner released their 2017 commercial set at a Black Lives Matter protest, the star, message, and product placement were all criticized as inappropriate and trivializing a racial justice movement. Breaking news and social justice issues are not good vehicles to try to boost your SEO or sales. This breaks consumer trust and can appear insensitive. Make sure others on your communications team review your draft before you hit send to make sure it isn’t inadvertently offensive.


3. Has It Been Done?

Trending audio on TikTok, topics on Twitter, and even search trends on Google, don’t last long. If you can create relevant, quality content using a specific trend, you should do so as quickly as possible. Also, make sure your content is unique and not simply a repeat of something the competition has already done. 


4. Did You Do Your Research?

Before you use that viral hashtag or sound, make sure you have done your research and know exactly what it means and why it is trending. A few years ago, DiGiorno missed the mark with their “#WhyIStayed You had pizza” tweet, using the hashtag without realizing it was about domestic violence. A little research before you hit send can protect you from a PR nightmare. 


The Bottom Line

Monitor the performance of your content and track its engagement. This will help your team determine whether your content is reaching your target audience and if similar trends are worth pursuing. Even if an attempt to jump on a trend doesn’t pan out, the experience will help your social media team learn what content will (or won’t) get noticed.