Trendjacking 101: How To Jump on Trending Topics as a Brand

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Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | May 30, 2024

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Every day, brands on social media compete with each other’s aesthetic content, witty hashtags and huge Instagram ad campaigns. But if you really want to stand out on important days, the key is to include trendjacking in your brand’s digital marketing strategy.

Social media is extremely fast-paced. Hot topics come and go. One minute, everyone is talking about a silly moment at the Oscars or an influencer that just got cancelled. The next, everyone has moved on to the hottest new thing. Rinse and repeat.

But that doesn’t mean you should just let these fun moments pass. Trends—no matter how fast they fade—are a terrific way to inject your brand into a conversation everyone is having. And when you hijack a trend with your content, you’ll be rewarded with tons of likes, comments, and shares online.

Trendjacking is when brands jump on topics that everyone is talking about and sharing with friends online.

The Lowdown on Trending Posts: What Is Trendjacking?

This buzzword seems to be coming out of everyone’s mouths when talking about building a digital marketing strategy. But what is trendjacking in the first place?

Trendjacking is a content creation technique that capitalizes on hot topics and stories that have been getting a lot of buzz online. It can be something as big as a world news event or as small as a superstar saying something controversial online.

Brands can create memes, photos, and videos about these topics while still highlighting their brand. You get to seize the opportunity and insert your brand into a conversation everyone is having on the internet. It’s a terrific way to keep your content interesting and relevant amid boring, product-centric posts.

By jumping on trending topics and creating lighthearted, amusing content out of them, brands connect with their audience. If the post is brilliant enough, it can make headlines and reach people outside its target audience.

These posts are the opposite of evergreen content. While the latter is not time-sensitive and always relevant no matter when people see it, the former piggybacks on hot topics and tentpole events. These trendy posts may get you lots of likes and shares when they’re first published, but their relevance fades with time.

Newsjacking is a form of trendjacking specific to breaking news and current events.

Newsjacking vs Trendjacking: What’s the Difference?

You might have also heard of newsjacking, another marketing technique brands use for their content. And you might be asking, what’s the difference between newsjacking vs trendjacking? Are they the same thing?

Well, not exactly. Newsjacking is a specific type of trendjacking focused on current events and stories from the news cycle. These are real-time events and breaking news happening somewhere in the world that everyone is watching. One example of newsjacking is creating content that celebrates an athlete winning their first Olympic medal.

Trendjacking is a term mostly used for posts made that piggyback on trends, silly moments, pop culture, and internet phenomena. It’s much broader than newsjacking and definitely a lot more lighthearted and amusing.

How Trendjacking Benefits Your Brand

Trendjacking benefits your brand if you execute posts that capitalize on trends. If you can get people to laugh, smile and share your content with others, you’ve done your job as a content marketer. Here are three benefits you will reap if you post content tied to a hot topic or trend.

1. It Gives You a Boost in Reach and Visibility

Posting content related to the top trends everyone is talking about will significantly boost visibility.

When an event or topic is trending, everyone consumes content about it. When you post something related to that topic, you’ll have more eyes on your brand than usual. This means getting a temporary increase in reach. If your trendjacked post is witty or creative enough, you might even get some new followers.

2. It Increases Engagement on Your Posts

Trendjacked posts are meant for liking and sharing. They’re not there to help you sell products or drive conversions. They’re a way to engage your audience (and even people outside of it).

Because these posts are so relevant to the times, more people will engage with them. They might even share it with their friends and family because they find it so entertaining. You know your post has done well if it has more likes, comments, and shares than your evergreen, product-centric content. It could even go viral!

3. It Allows You To Show a Fun, Flexible, Creative Side to Your Brand

By trendjacking hot topics, you show your audience that your brand is in the know regarding trends. It makes you look fresh, youthful, and relevant. Showing your brand’s fun, creative side can help build connections with people. As a result, your brand image may dramatically improve.

Jumping on trends should never be at the expense of a specific group of people’s feelings.

When Is Trendjacking Bad?

Posting about trends and current events is an excellent way to keep your brand visible while the world fawns over a new fad. But sometimes, brands will create distasteful posts about a trend that offend others. So, when is trendjacking distasteful?

Hopping on trends using content is usually harmless, but there are a few instances where it can go very wrong. These include capitalizing on tragic events, polarizing political issues, and racial sensitivities.

You’ll hurt other people if you post content for laughs surrounding topics like this. This paints your brand in a bad light, and you’ll have to apologize later.

You never want your brand to be a part of sensitive conversations unless it’s to do good and raise awareness for a cause. Otherwise, leave the funny trendjacking at the door. The internet will label your brand as tone-deaf and ignorant.

For example, recently, Warner Bros in Japan called out the US arm of the studio for engaging with insensitive “Barbenheimer” content in the name of trendy content.

The official Warner Bros. Twitter account had interacted with memes showing Barbie with mushroom explosions in the background. The Japan team felt that the content trivializes their country’s experience with nuclear attacks, leading to a backlash. This just goes to show you that creating trendy content without thinking of who you hurt and offended will backfire later.

Capitalizing on trends also looks bad when you force it upon your brand. Not every hot topic or tentpole event will make sense in the context of your brand. Forcing trending topics onto your content will make it low-quality and irrelevant, making people less likely to engage.

The goal of trendjacking is to make people laugh, smile and share the post with friends.

How To Do Brand Trendjacking, Step by Step

Interested in creating tasteful, lighthearted posts that ride on trends for your brand? Here’s exactly how to add brand trendjacking to your digital marketing strategy, step by step:

1. Keep an Eye Out for Upcoming Trends and Tentpole Events

First, stay on top of the latest trending topics on the internet. One of the key elements of trendjacked content is how timely you post it. So, it’s crucial to spot upcoming trends as soon as possible so you can produce and publish your witty content.

One way to see all the hot topics on social media at any given moment is by using audience research software. This lets you see the relevant trends your target audience is discussing. As soon as you see a trend you want to ride on, consider making content about it immediately.

2. Choose a Trending Topic That’s Relevant to Your Brand

But hold on—don’t get too excited. Don’t just jump on any cool trend you see online. It may interest you and pique your curiosity, but is it a trend relevant to your brand?

Not every hot topic or event will be the right fit for your brand’s trendjacking content. To be honest, most trends won’t be. It’s important to pick and choose which trends to cover in your content. There needs to be a natural connection between the trend and your brand. It’s an exercise in restraint that keeps you from creating irrelevant branded content.

3. Create Content Surrounding the Topic You Want to Trendjack

When you find the perfect internet moment or trend to post about, feel free to play around with it all you want! Think of funny memes or Instagram Reels you can create out of the story while keeping your brand at center stage.

If many other brands also discuss this trend, put your spin on your content to make it stand out. Add value to the conversation with a thought-provoking message. Use a unique punchline only your brand can make. That way, you will make an impression on your audience even when your competitors are trendjacking, too.

Before posting your content, add relevant hashtags about the trend in your caption. This makes it easier for people to discover your content while they’re reading up on the trend or tentpole event you’re leveraging.

4. Monitor Your Audience’s Reaction to the Post

After publishing the post, keep an eye on how your followers and the general public will react to it. Try to engage with any comments as they roll in to increase your rank on the Instagram algorithm.

In a few days or weeks, measure the results with Instagram insights and analytics. See how well the post performed and how it impacted your follower count and engagement rates. Consider adding trendy posts to your regular digital marketing strategy if the results look promising.

The clock is always ticking for trendy posts as hot topics come and go.

Pro-Tip: Trendjacking Social Media Topics Should Always Be Speedy

When you’re planning on trendjacking social media topics that are trending, make sure to do it as soon as possible. There’s no time for your post to pass through different levels of approvals like a content calendar would. You need to publish it as soon as possible since trending topics die out extremely fast.

If you wait days after a story breaks out to post your content, you risk publishing it when the trend has already died down. Not only will you have wasted effort to produce that content, but you’ll also end up with irrelevant content on your page.

Posting your trendjacked content at lightning speed shows people that your brand is quick-thinking, witty and relevant. It shows that you’re in tune with the world and can come up with fresh ideas on the fly. It also makes your competitors sweat a little, which is always nice—right?

That said, you shouldn’t rush into posting trendy content, either. Move at a speedy pace to create your content, sure. But always remember to understand a trend’s full context before inserting your brand into the conversation. You don’t want to post anything you’ll regret later. 

Trendjacking Examples To Draw Inspiration From

There are plenty of trends and stories to capitalize on if you want to post trendjacked content. But sometimes, when the creative juices aren’t flowing right, it’s difficult to come up with ideas for trendy content.

Need inspiration for your next trendy branded content? Here are a few trendjacking examples that have taken the world by storm in recent years.

The craze for the 2023 Barbie movie led to so many posts jumping on the trend.

Trendjacking Movies and Shows Everyone Wants To Watch

Many brands ride on upcoming movies and shows that people are raving about on social media. One of these is the Barbie movie that came out in the summer of 2023.

Months before the movie released, countless memes and brand collaboration posts about it came out. Some brands that joined the Barbie bandwagon on social media include Airbnb, Kendra Scott, and Balmain.

Outside of brand partnerships, some brands also trendjacked the Barbie craze to add a vibrant touch to their content. McDonald’s India, for example, posted an Instagram photo of their new McSpicy Chicken burger in the viral Barbie frame format.

Another show that recently made waves is Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. One of the biggest moments of the tour was when the singer announced tour dates for Singapore—her only stop in Southeast Asia.

Singaporean brands quickly jumped on this hot topic from the news cycle, making trendy content about it left and right. Even Singapore’s Sentosa Island hopped on the trend.

On TikTok, they posted a video of them conversing with Taylor Swift in a series of texts referencing her most famous lyrics. They then cleverly spotlighted the tourist island, highlighting how fun it would be for Taylor and her fans to visit.

Brands love to come out and play when there are big sports events on TV.

Trendjacking World Competitions and Sports Events

Brands also love to post trendy content when international competitions and sports events are trending. During World Cup games and Miss Universe shows, you can bet that brand teams are racking their brains to create the wittiest, fastest content about the events.

One iconic instance of a brand trendjacking a major competition was in 2013 during the Super Bowl. While the game was ongoing, a power outage in the field caused a blackout for half an hour. It was an insane yet memorable moment that everyone was talking about on social media.

Not long after the game, Oreo came out with a post with a witty one-liner about “[dunking] in the dark.” It was a great way to put Oreo under the spotlight during such a huge sports event.

Trendjacking Popular Internet Culture, From Memes to Songs

Lastly, brands can create trendjacked posts inspired by viral memes or funny songs.

Nailing posts like these requires brands to always stay on top of new trends online. Unlike movies, shows, competitions, and sports events, you never know when a good meme will pop up. Stay current to immediately jump on a relevant trend to your brand.

One brand that proved to do this well is Chipotle. When the “Corn Kid” song went viral on social media, they immediately tapped Tariq—the kid behind the meme—to work with them. The Mexican food brand created a video of a Chipotle worker preparing a burrito bowl for an unknown customer. At the end of the video, they reveal the guest as Tariq, who asks for corn!

What’s awesome about this story is that Chipotle didn’t force this trend onto their brand. There was already a natural connection between them, as corn is one of the ingredients the restaurant uses daily. It was lighthearted, intelligent, and relevant, as the song was still trending when they posted the video.

Trendjacking Is Excellent for Creating Fun, Amusing Content for Your Followers

Trendjacking is perfect for inserting your brand into hot topics and trending online conversations. With witty, creative, relevant content about a trend people love, you can positively impact your brand.

Look out for upcoming trends using audience research software and social media listening. That way, you always know about breaking news, tentpole events, and memes your brand can leverage on for witty content.

Of course, publishing posts piggybacking current trends is not always smart. It’s important to keep timing and sensitivities in mind if you want to create funny content based on trends. Be careful not to make distasteful, insensitive jokes that might hurt a specific person or group. Not only is this mean and malicious, but it can also put your brand in a bad light.

Want more eyeballs on your brand’s trendjacked posts? Work with Path Social to grow your following. That way, whenever you post something related to a trending topic, more people can see it. Our proprietary targeting algorithm serves your posts to audiences that are most likely to engage with them. As a result, you get more engagements and followers. Start growing your Instagram fanbase with us today!