Since the rise of the almighty giant that is social media, digital trends have been at the heart of what gets Twitter fingers typing and Facebook addicts posting. In their own way, they've become a part of world news, culture and society.
As consumers, digital trends stir up a multitude of emotions to react to. Whether causing phones to be drenched in tears or thrown halfway through a wall, these trends make the consumer feel connected.
That feeling of inclusion is at the root of any trend. Why would anyone talk about them otherwise? They give the consumer the ability to share common interests, humor, sympathy and frustration.
But where do brands fit into all this?
Brand Connections & Cockroaches
Your connection with your audience should stem from more than just your product. It's a hard truth to swallow. Even if you're the next Steve Jobs, you still need your 1984 (a legendary Apple advert).
Consumers are looking for a reason to connect with your product. One that goes deeper than your buy-one-get-one deal. They're looking to share in a feeling or a moment. That's where you grab their reaction. Give your audience a reason to check out what you're posting. That's where trends come in.
As a brand, it's your duty to jump on any digital trend that's crawling around on your feed. They're like the cockroaches of social media. You'll stomp on one and then a week later, 10 more will come crawling back onto your feed.
I make this comparison not to remind you of your cockroach problem at home, but to show you that trends will forever be on social media. Instead of seeing them as pests or useless information, look at them as a way to understand your audience a little bit better.
The main point I'm leading to is that connecting with your audience, through trends, draws them closer to your brand. Trends can be the middleman between your audience and your business. You can post about yourself all you want, but if you're not doing more about expressing what interests your audience, they'll only see your business at the surface level.
There are plenty of trends being shared and reacted to everyday. So, which are important to look out for and how do brands use them to their advantage? Here are 5 unique digital trends that your brand should try in 2019.
1. Don't take Holidays on Holidays
The month of March is one of celebration, fun and excitement. One of gathering together, enjoying one's company. The colour green, paraded through the streets as a symbol for good fortune. If it isn't obvious by now, the holiday I speak of is "National Celery Month".
Whether you celebrate traditional, cultural or "National Celery Month", the world seems to be celebrating something or someone everyday. These days can be identified as holidays.
Holidays are the perfect trend to rally a group of people around your post. They're the reason people plan vacations, spend time with loved ones, and take selfies with stocks of celery. Making that connection is an easy but effective one to make.
A great example of a local business using holidays to their advantage is Suzy Q Doughnuts. About a month ago, I had a hankering for doughy-circular perfection. With me forgetting what day it was, I headed to Suzy Q's for half-a-dozen sugarcoated donuts.
Instead of walking through the front door, I was stopped by a group of people lined up outside the door. I was surprised since the time was way-past noon, but my cravings gave me the strength to push forward. Slowly but surely, I made it to the front of the line. Looking through the glass that was keeping from my heart's desire, I noticed that all the donuts were shaped into hearts.
Then it clicked. February 14th, it was Valentine's Day.
It seemed like everyone in Ottawa was buying donuts for their significant other. Their post on social media gathered over a thousand likes and plenty of comments. Posting about the love that the 14th brings and tailoring it around their business made Suzy Q the perfect third wheel for the day.
Even though Suzy Q's product is impressive to say the least, they continued to do more and tried to make more of a connection with their audience. They took the love that was in the air and added it to their recipe.
2. Read, Like, Retweet, Share all about it!
As a young paperboy, I used to think newspapers were a waste of good drawing paper. Instead of reading them, I'd be drawing mustaches on politicians and creating new worlds from simple photographs.
The point is that at first glance, news can seem uninteresting, boring and dull, especially on social media. But news is defined as more than simply politics and weather. Draw a mustache on the news and you got something interesting.
News can be defined as exciting events happening in your city, important discoveries surrounding your industry or interesting facts that interest your audience. News that's happening in their world that can peak interest and start conversations.
But there are a few things to remember when posting about news on your social media.
What's this news actually about? Did you read the article or did you read the Spark Notes for it? Be thorough. Show your audience you know what you're posting and why it should apply to them.
When did this news occur? Was it transcribed from ancient hieroglyphics or is it news that's up-to-date. Show your audience that you're current, contemporary and not stuck in the past.
Where did this news come from? Was it from your friend's mom's friend's aunt's bus driver? Or was it from a creditable source? Show your audience that the news you're sharing is worth repeating.
It's important to show your audience that you know whom you're talking to and what they're looking for outside of your product or brand. By posting news that interests your audience, they see your content as relational and less "hands up, give me your wallet."
3. Leverage Entertainment & Pop-Culture
Whether it's about how Samantha turned down Tony for Ernesto or that crazy last second goal, entertainment is one of most predominate trends on social media. Sports, music, film, TV shows etc. It's something we like to watch after a long day at work or to help us forget about that pile of dishes sitting in the sink.
With entertainment being so saturated in our culture, it seems to be what everyone is posting pictures about or what people are talking about, live while they're happening.
So for your brand, how do you take advantage of this trend? What if you're selling insurance? Should you be posting about the Bachelorette?
You know your audience and you know what produces a reaction. A crucial factor in posting entertainment content is that it needs to match with who you are as a brand. If it doesn't connect with your audience, they won't react or think you're trying to reach someone else.
For posting entertainment, there's a lot to choose from when it comes to content. Don't confuse your audience and post trends that are relevant and entertaining.
4. Competition Blunders
"We all make mistakes. No one's perfect."
This saying is what all businesses hope are true when regarding their competition. Rival businesses share the same market, audience and sometimes personalities. But what they rarely share are mistakes.
This may seem like an unorthodox trend but when approached correctly, it can turn someone else's mistake into your advantage.
A humorous example of using the competition's mistake to your advantage is Samsung versus Apple, two smartphone behemoths going head-to-head in battle for supremacy.
Back when the iPhone 6 Plus was released, customers found that the 6 Plus would bend when small amounts of pressure were applied to the phone. Customers were enraged by the fact they spent good money on a product that wasn't sturdy at all.
With Samsung at the ready, they came up with a clever post about comparing the bending iPhone to their own superior product.
This post acknowledges Apple's mistake and makes a joke out of it. Comparing a feature that Apple didn't intend to a feature Samsung did intend, their curve-sided phone. This as well, resulted in this comedic advertisement.
The main focus in exploiting your competition's blunders is that they're meant to be fun. It shouldn't feel like things have gotten personal or there'll be a boxing match in the near future.
The focus should be on the humor and in turn, people will connect with that to your brand. Not that you've exposed your competition for a mistake but you handled it with class and kept things clever.
I wouldn't recommend scouring the Internet for one little mistake. But when the opportunity presents itself, have class and have fun. There's nothing like a little friendly competition.
5. Meme Lightning
Before I dive into this last trend, I'll try to explain to those who are unaware what a meme is and it's importance to social media.
The definition of a "meme" is a joke attached to an idea, behaviour, style or usage that spreads between person to person within a culture. They can be shared through pictures or videos. In my opinion, memes are the most popular form of Internet satire for the younger generation.
The significance of memes towards social media and brands is that they can connect to literally anything. The characteristics of a meme are effortless and random and that's why it's so hard for brands to enter meme culture.
Time and time again, brands have attempted to wield this complex trend with little to no success. Previous brand attempts at this trend have come off as dry and awkward. In turn, the Internet made memes about how bad these brands attempts were.
Now with all this being said, why would I list this as an option? Well, this is more intended for brands that get struck with meme lightning.
An example of getting struck with meme lightning is Apple with their Apple AirPods. The joke pokes fun at its price. With a heavy price tag of over 200 dollars, if you don't own AirPods you are seen by the person wearing them as "broke".
The humor may be seen as childish or silly but went super viral and brought attention to Apple as a brand. In no way did Apple plan on the Internet to create a meme for their product. The important thing is meme culture has a huge connection with the social media and can turn anything into a comedic phenomenon. The connections memes convey can bring millions to share a poorly-photoshopped photo.
Connect the Dots
A brand's connection with their audience is more than what they're selling. They want to see what's behind the logo, dollar signs and flyers. Whether drawing in humor, excitement or insight, trends play a major part in why consumers love social media. Which can lead to your consumers to love your brand.
But your audience isn't going see the full picture of your brand right a way. That's what social media is for. To post and communicate trends or topics that are attached to who you are as a brand. Then, let your audience connect the dots.