When Should Your Brand Join in on a Viral Moment on Social Media?

One of the most exciting parts of working in social media is right in the title: social. As a brand owner, you get to interact and engage with your audience and make those social connections that strengthen your brand’s image. However, there’s a fine line between being on trend in the social media world and jumping headfirst into a viral moment that doesn’t fit your company at all. But when juggling workflows full of creative requests and approval processes, how do you know what cultural trends you need to get in on before it’s too late?
Lucky for us, we have an expert on the line.
Saad Khan is the Brand Social Lead at Shopify and is speaking on the panel “Viral and Cultural Moments – How and When Brands Should Tap into the Conversation” at February’s Social Media Strategies Summit. We were able to ask him a few questions about his experience in the industry and where he’s found success in joining cultural conversations online.

Do you have advice on staying on top of cultural trends for social media teams of one? How should they manage their time?

Consolidate your strategy as much as you can. You don’t need to be on every single channel, figure out the 1-2 that are your cash cows, where your audience is, and go all in on those. You’ll be rewarded much greater from a focused channel strategy creating tailored content on one channel rather than being spread thin across multiple channels where you’re just reposting the same content.

“Consolidate your strategy as much as you can. You don’t need to be on every single channel, figure out the 1-2 that are your cash cows, where your audience is, and go all in on those.”

Are there any big faux pas when it comes to brands trying to stay relevant online?

Not every trend is a fit for your brand. Don’t force your presence into every conversation by trying to make it about your brand, your product, etc., especially if the trend is completely far removed from that.

Can you tell us about a time you jumped on a social media trend and it was successful?

This is from a while ago but still a fun one. We were one of the first brands to jump onto the Wandavision meme (going ALL the way back to pandemic days past). We went out with a cheeky little competitive dig that people on Twitter totally ate up at the time and this made the rounds across meme pages, blogs, videos, you name it. Oops.

What tips do you have for social media professionals who want to incorporate DEI&B content into their strategy?

Think about the brand you’re representing and understand its values, mission and beliefs first and foremost. Instead of trying to retrofit your brand into a “trending cultural moment,” reimagine your approach by thinking about
  • What spaces can my brand authentically show up in?
  • What does my brand have the right to speak about?
  • What does my brand not have the right to speak about? (Perhaps the most important)
From there, you’ll be able to begin building a strategy that is organically and authentically inclusive. It will be mission-aligned and reflective of your target audience, and therefore, feel more human and ownable — rather than just another brand offering platitudes and logo changes on a specific day or a specific month.

What is something you wish you knew when you started your career in social media?

That you’ll probably start hating doing anything on your personal social accounts.
But also would say that even after all this time of social existing as a true profession, it can still be seen by many as an “easy” job that “anyone” can do. When obviously anyone who has worked as an SMM can tell you otherwise about just how demanding a job it can be. So I wish I could have known just how much this career can ask of a single person, and while I still enjoy it now, it tends to keep me booked and busy.

How do you get an executive to buy into experimenting with TikTok?

Firstly, start running with your ideas and show them the proof in the pudding. Second, have plenty of competitive research in your back pocket. TikTok’s been around long enough now that there’s more than enough examples you can gather from brands that have pulled it all off successfully. Use that data to backup your rationale and to prove how you can achieve similar success — and ideally greater success. And third, dig into the heads of your target audience. Find out what they’re tuned into on TikTok (find out what niche/what #tok they’re on) and pitch how you’re going to capture their attention right where they are.

What has been your favorite TikTok trend?

Probably the one where people keep duetting and stitching a video and filling in the parts that are supposedly off-screen like an elbow, or the other arm doing something completely random. Oftentimes the best part is how with each stitch the concept gets more and more ridiculous. Example and example.

What is your 2023 social media resolution?

Be hyper-intentional with what I, as a brand, post and more importantly — don’t. Social is as noisy and cluttered as ever and more often than not, audiences are growing fatigued of seeing a brand pop up adding to the noise without providing any clear value. So being intentional with what/when we post and what/when we don’t is imperative to building a brand with value successfully for the longer term.

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