Easy: If you can’t beat them, join them! This is a tactic public relations pros call “newsjacking.” Newsjacking is when a company finds a way to make itself part of a larger, trending conversation.
For example, a local plumbing business might not be able to afford to buy a commercial spot on the NBC affiliate station during the Olympics. Actually, the U.S. Olympic Committee has gone so far as to send take-down notices to non-sponsor businesses who use the word “Olympics” or reproduce any USOC trademarks in social media posts.
What that plumber can do instead is post a timely reference to a trending topic from the big event, for instance: “Got green water in your pool (or toilet or sink or tub)? Call Dave’s Plumbing today!”
In this example, you’re making reference to a newsworthy event (the diving and water polo pools in Rio turning bright green) without violating any intellectual property laws or spending thousands on TV ads. Check outClorox’s #greenpool Tweet for an example of how to do it right.
Remember these rules before you start jacking the news on your own social media feed:
- Don’t try to talk over the roar. Instead of posting on a topic likely to be overshadowed by a trending major event, look for creative ways to start a conversation with your followers and potential customers related to the big news of the day.
- Do no harm. An easy way to incur the wrath of an angry social media mob is to capitalize inappropriately on a trending topic. Some things are fair game (like the #greenpool fiasco); other events are off limits for playful referencing. Marketing messages around a national tragedy or natural disaster are completely distasteful (though plenty of corporate brands have gotten themselves in hot water for tweeting about 9/11, hurricanes and political revolutions). When in doubt, just don’t go there.
- Bring it back to your business. Posting on a trending topic does no good if it doesn’t bring people around to the products and services you sell. If you’re a plumber, don’t just make a social media joke about green water—tie your post to a special promotion you might have going, or offer a small discount to customers who share your #greenpool post with their friends. Following this rule means those social media interactions lead to real-world sales.