Are Bandwagons Bad for Business?
Are Bandwagons Bad for Business?
When a trend gets popular in the media or industry, you might have trouble deciding whether or not your company should engage with that trend. Trends have the potential to be great for business, but only when the marketing is handled carefully.
From an SEO standpoint, taking advantage of trends has plenty of benefits. However, choosing the right trend to follow can be tricky — you want to be tasteful and impactful, but you don’t want to waste energy or come off as tone-deaf.
Here, we’ve got three of the top do’s and don’ts when it comes to a business engaging with trends:
1. Understand the Root of the Trend
Do: Thoroughly research the trend
Don’t: Engage with a trend prematurely
Research is vital, particularly when it comes to trending keywords and hashtags. Hopping on the bandwagon to capitalize on a new trend based purely on the numbers could be a huge misfire. For example, back in 2014, DiGiorno used the #WhyIStayed hashtag in an attempt to market their product. The tag was trendings; the numbers looked good.
The company was unaware that the hashtag was created to spread awareness of domestic violence in the wake of the Janay Rice and Ray Rice domestic abuse incident in 2014. Though the company apologized and quickly removed the tweet featuring the hashtag, there was a considerable deal of fallout.
Though some considered this an accident by a careless account manager, many others were concerned that the pizza company was making a tasteless joke out of a serious subject. The point is, trends are volatile and require a bit of extra attention.
In this instance, a quick review of other posts utilizing the hashtag could have saved a ton of public relations trouble. If you intend to co-opt something to promote your business, make sure you know how that could impact your image.
On the other hand, Denny’s has significantly benefited from appropriately engaging with trends through social media accounts and other efforts. As part of the first wave of corporate social accounts capitalizing on online fads, memes, and pop culture references, they saw a significant boost in follower count and corresponding business.
Trends Don’t Last Forever
Trends are, by nature, of the moment. So even in this case, Denny’s had to rely on that momentum to fuel rebranding efforts and a shift in marketing strategy that they still employ today. By using that energy to focus on targeting a younger audience and rethinking their business model, Denny’s was able to make it through the almost universal decline that hit most diner-style businesses.
So the important thing to remember is that trends have a lot of potential, and if you do want to take advantage of them for marketing, the timing has to be right. But before firing off any tweets, IG posts, or Facebook updates, make sure you know what you’re cosigning.
2. Consider Your Role in the Trend
Do: Thoughtfully and sincerely address sensitive issues
Don’t: Superficially respond to sensitive issues
Not only is it essential to carefully choose which trends you engage with, but you should also consider how you participate. Trends often touch on sensitive subjects, and while not all trends are related to some significant political or social issue, there’s usually some degree connection worth considering.
While shallow responses might seem safe and easy, they can also make your company seem superficial.
In recent memory, one of the best examples of shallow engagement that sparked a negative public response was rainbow everything. As marches and LGBTQ+ activism kicked off around the country, with many key figures and LGBTQ+ icons employing the iconic rainbow coloration for the social profiles and other places, businesses saw an opportunity.
A wave of LGBTQ+ ‘endorsement’ swept over several corporate social accounts, but in most cases, all it amounted to was changing an icon to rainbow or a few pieces of rainbow merchandise. It was rare for the companies in question to engage in the dialog or support one of the many charities that support the community that started the trend.
Looking at that situation, we learn two major questions that should always be asked before joining a trend:
Are We Adding Anything of Value?
Consider the rainbow example. The real public outrage is rooted in the lack of commitment to actual change. To superficially support a cause, while making no practical financial or social commitment to change, is the same as doing nothing.
Unless you’re prepared to take some stance, alter your charitable donation strategies, or take some other action that shows a real investment in the cause behind a trend, it’s a risky venture.
Now more than ever, public records are readily accessible. People can quickly review your company’s history and how it handled situations related to any given cause in the past. From donations to programs that run counter to the objective in question, to how you handled employees and customers from particular social groups.
Do We Have Anything To Say?
Ask yourself, “does my company need to take a stance on this issue?”
Involving your business in any politicized discussion is a double-edged sword. While the financial and social support of a significant entity like a company can affect real, positive change in some situations, the opposite can be true as well.
Chick-Fil-A is a great example. In this same series of events, Chick-Fil-A was criticized for its charitable donations to organizations with a history of anti-LGBT agendas. Chick-Fil-A wasn’t actively participating in the “rainbow washing,” but the increased scrutiny of companies as public figures in general led to their practices being heavily publicized and then criticized.
Chick-Fil-A has since announced a change to their donation practices in response to the criticism, but this serves as a useful example of how trends and major movements can influence a business.
3. Don’t Go Overboard With Interaction
Do: Modestly engage with trends
Don’t: Spam trends to get clicks
Yes, using trending keywords can increase your attention and web traffic. However, be wary of abusing this tactic. While you might gain attention by engaging with every trend that comes up, you run the risk of damaging your credibility and losing the trust of your community.
Building an audience is difficult, so alienating an audience that you already have can do more harm than good if you’re not careful. If you want to maximize the benefits by capitalizing on trends without abandoning sensibility, use your judgment to pick and choose which trends make sense for you carefully.
Ask yourself: is this trend still relevant? Is this trend appropriate for my brand?
It’s also worth remembering that evergreen content will almost always be more valuable than a trending topic. Staying on top of the news, trending subjects, and other in the moment issues is excellent. It shows that your business is active and engaged in events that most people are paying attention to.
But without a solid foundation, you’ll run into two problems. You’ll either run out of appropriate trending content, which leaves evergreen and base content on its own, or you’ll appear unfocused in your messaging.
Maintaining a good balance between trends and evergreen content is ideal. It lets you stay on top of a series of changing and exciting topics that people are likely to respond to, without sacrificing the foundation elements that long-time or newly invested audience members are looking for.
Should You Chase Trends?
In spite of what seems like a number of warnings, the short answer is yes. You should engage with trending topics, ongoing news, and other temporary content. By handing the subject matter appropriately, you can improve traffic and engagement while also showing your audience that you’re not blind to the world outside of your business.
Of course, that comes with the caveat: tread carefully.
Pick and choose where to invest your content. Not every trend suits your business, and sometimes the moral, social, or political quagmire surrounding the topic is more trouble than it’s worth from a marketing standpoint.
Thorough understanding, sincerity, and modesty are vital to capitalizing on trends effectively and in good taste. Be sure to consider these do’s and don’ts the next time you’re deciding whether or not to take advantage of a trend.