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One way to think about social media is that it’s like real-world traditional media, but faster. Every trend waxes and wanes in hyperspeed, going from unknown to hot to tired to uncool in a matter of days or weeks, not months. Remember all of the imitators a campaign like Got milk? spawned? Or Apple’s Think different? In the past, brands and their marketers had enough time to notice a trend, produce a response or imitation, and send that to market and still hope bet on not being perceived as copycats or out of touch. In contrast, how long was the window for Harlem Shake videos? Three weeks? A month? Hardly enough time to formulate a response.
It’s true that on social media, trends go faster than ever before. This makes it harder than ever to stay relevant. We’ve assembled some of the worst social media trends here—avoid these at all costs!
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It’s important to remember what your brand stands for to its fans. Unless you’re associated with the football industry, it’s probable that none of your fans would look to you for football news, especially during a universally-covered event like the Superbowl. And who really cares what some random brand thinks about football?
Remember what people were looking for when they liked, followed, or subscribed to your brand’s page. If your brand is about tech, then yes, it makes sense to have coverage of one of Apple’s huge keynote events. But most live-tweeting is a relatively big investment with pretty low return. It’s best to go for low volume, high impact messaging.
Facebook is obviously the biggest and most important social network. But it’s also the most expensive, and home to the most competition. It’s also very much an unpredictable investment: one only needs to remember the utter collapse of organic reach that Facebook enacted earlier this year. Don’t forget—Facebook is here to make money too! For more bang for your buck, look at Twitter, Google+, even smaller networks like Instagram and Tumblr can be quite effective. Depending on the brand you’re marketing, some of these networks might be uniquely suited to what you’re selling.
When you’re running the social media of a national brand, you have attention. This is good. But please, please remember that sometimes, it’s best just not to comment. If Twitter is hosting a national conversation about domestic violence, maybe it’s best for your pizza brand to sit this one out. No one looks to microwave pizzas for relationship or social advice, so it probably would have been better if DiGiorno just managed to keep their mouth shut on this one.
It’s simple to get a good rule of thumb here: when in doubt, hold back. Especially if there’s even an outside chance someone will be offended. There just isn’t a need to participate in social media trends: there’s very little to gain, and a lot to lose. Do you really remember which of your friends didn’t post a Harlem Shake video? Probably not.
Just remember why your audience followed you in the first place, and keep with that formula. They expect you to provide a certain type of content, and unless you’re very sure about it, it’s best not to mess with that too much.
Russel Cooke is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @RusselCooke2.
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