Let’s go back to one of my favorite eras: the late ’90s.

Imagine you’re surfing Internet Explorer on your dial-up connection, minding your own business as you research fansites, games, and chatrooms. Life is good.

Then suddenly, you’re assaulted by a flurry of pop-up ads coming from every corner of your screen, flashing sales and discounts for who-knows-what in your face.

You quickly try to click the X, but the stupid ad thinks it’s funny and moves across the screen as you hover.


I’m glad those days are over, but I’m afraid history is starting to repeat itself.

In the age of social media, many brands still have trouble adapting to the type of content their audiences expect and actually want.

With traditional media, like brochures, radio spots, billboards, or commercials, brands had one shot to get their message across. Their time, space, and budget was limited, so their marketing was straightforward and promotional. Its only goal was to make sure your audience knew about your company, products, and services.

This is pretty much the complete opposite of how social media works. We’ve said it time and time again — social media is not the place to plaster your digital fliers. It’s a place to be social.

Remember, social media started as a place for people to connect with friends and family. If you want your audience to add your brand to their feeds and social circles, you have to fit in and be a brand worth following. You won’t accomplish this if all of your content is promotional.

Instead, your audience seeks a brand personality that is entertaining, helpful, and relatable.


Popular Culture = Trending Topics

So if brands shouldn’t constantly talk about themselves, what else is there to say?

That’s where pop culture and trending topics come in.

If something is trending, that means people are talking about it. We’re tagging our friends, retweeting to our followers, or contributing original content of our own.

Well, as a brand, you want to pull up a chair at the proverbial dinner party. You need to be where the people are.

Thanks to social media, brands can join the conversation and share points-of-view on trending topics surrounding things like:

  • Music
  • Sports
  • Movies
  • Television
  • Celebrity news
  • Holidays
  • Cultural moments
  • Viral trends, challenges, and memes

Again, all of the above are topics that brands probably wouldn’t waste time discussing on traditional media. But since social media is an ongoing conversation in real-time, it creates countless engagement opportunities.

6 Reasons to Use Pop Culture in Your Social Media Strategy

I don’t advise brands to brush up on popular culture or trending topics just because it’s fun to chime in with a cheeky meme, remark about celebrity news, or contribute to a viral dance challenge. I do it because this approach is one of your strongest marketing strategies.

Here are the benefits of incorporating popular culture into your social media content:

1. It humanizes your brand. You don’t want your audience to see you as a rigid company up in their corporate ivory towers counting stacks of cash. You want to demonstrate that you have a personality and multiple dimensions.

Here’s a tweet from lululemon that lets their audience know that despite being an activewear company, they too, enjoy a lazy day.


2. You’ll build relationships. You know that feeling when you find out you have something in common with someone and you immediately hit it off? Brands and their potential customers can recreate this spark. Demonstrate a shared interest in what your audience loves, and they’ll feel more connected to the brand.

Popular grocery store chain, Publix, makes it clear just how much they love pets, too. How can you not bond with this brand over these adorable photos on #LoveYourPetDay?


3. It challenges you to know your audience better. Choosing trending topics to contribute to requires you to understand your customers beyond demographics. You need to know their lifestyle, including the TV shows they watch, the movies they like, or the places they frequent.

Here’s a tweet from Tarte Cosmetics, which comments on two shows that are popular among their target audience. Notice that the post has nothing to do with their makeup products.


4. Your content is more likely to gain traffic. The goal is to quickly capitalize on a trend as its gaining traction online. You want to post while the topic is still relevant in order to pique interest at the right time. Author and viral marketing expert, Jonah Berger, says what is top-of-mind is tip-of-tongue.

There’s no better time for the TODAY show to share this article Jennifer Aniston’s cleaner margarita recipe than on #NationalMargaritaDay.


5. You can incorporate a soft sell. At the end of the day, we still have business goals, right? There are a number of ways to inconspicuously insert your products into pop culture moments.

Nail polish brand, OPI, masters the soft sell by tying their gorgeous nail colors into popular holidays. Here’s an Instagram post suggesting festive colors inspired by Mardi Gras.


6. It fills your content calendar. Add some variety to your content calendar by including pop culture moments. It’s not uncommon to see brands tweeting during the Super Bowl, award shows, or even amidst historic milestones. Who could forget this viral tweet from MoonPie during the 2017 solar eclipse?


Stay in the Know

There’s a lot of potential for brands in pop culture! If you want to take part in pop culture trends on social media, it’s imperative that you and your teams are constantly monitoring conversation. You don’t want to miss your big moment! Invest in social listening tools and be mindful of what is in the news. This approach will bring you closer to your audience than any heavy promotional strategy.


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