Trending Content 101
Mastering this coveted social media skill
If you’re looking for a way to stand out as a social media manager — you’re in the right place, and you’re going to love today’s edition.
Creating ‘trending content’ is a skill that the best of the best in this industry has on lock.
A deep understanding of trends — both macro and micro trends — allows you as a marketer to ‘hack’ attention and get your brand in front of thousands, or millions, of new eyeballs.
That said… there is a dark side to this … so you’re gonna wanna read all the way through so you have a complete grasp on how to use trending content, tastefully.
Defining ‘trending content’
Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page here. I’m sure marketers all over the industry have different definitions of what constitutes ‘trending content.’
My definition of it is:
Any content that you publish as a brand in reaction to a trending topic or current event.
And let’s clear something up. I feel like a lot of marketers have this misconception that ‘trending content’ on social is only stuff that’s posted in reaction to celebrity news.
No. Trending content is more than taking a meme template of a picture of Kim Kardashian or reacting to Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest (suspect) breakup.
Celebrity news and ‘mainstream’ trends can be part of your approach here. But there are also more niche ‘trends’ that industry-specific brands can hop on. Let’s talk about that a bit more in-depth.
Macro VS micro trends
‘Macro’ trends are the topics that the wider population of the US (or the world) would care about. These are the real mainstream trends.
A few examples:
- The Super Bowl halftime show
- Whoever Pete Davidson is dating next
- The latest hit Netflix show
Figuring out how to work your brand into the conversation here can be an effective way to get more views and engagement on your content. This usually works best for brands with mass appeal (think energy drink VS super niche B2B software).
‘Micro’ trends are the trends that take place within a certain niche or industry.
Say you worked for a brand in the fitness industry and a certain influencer got popped for using steroids.
Or say you worked for a brand in the eCommerce industry (like I do) and Shopify announces some wild new update to their platform.
Or say you worked for a professional esports team that competes in Call of Duty and there’s a broken gun in the game or a map that players won’t stop complaining about.
There are a million different examples here — but you get the point. Micro trends are topics and memes that aren’t cool to the ‘mainstream’ but resonate deeply with your target audience.
If I had to choose, I would 100% focus more on micro trends as a social media manager. The majority of us don’t work for big-name corporate brands with mass appeal.
That said. Knowing how to use BOTH of these types of trends is the ultimate goal.
→ Macro trends are meant for getting in front of a wide audience (new eyeballs on your brand)
→ Micro trends are meant for getting tons of engagement with people in your niche
Sometimes there is an overlap between the two — but this idea generally holds up.
Does every brand need to participate in trends?
Social media managers love to argue over this.
I view it as more of a spectrum.
My take is that every brand can and should participate in trending content in some way — the marketers behind these brands just need to have a set of criteria for what trends they hop on (more on this in a few minutes).
How the best social media managers ‘trend-spot’
Ok ok. I understand the importance of using trends as a brand — but how do I find them and get ideas for trending topics??
I’ve got good news for you. Trend spotting isn’t luck.
You can strategically put yourself in the best position to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening on the internet.
Here’s my system for trend-spotting.
I have such a love-hate relationship with this platform.
Sure. Scrolling for too long puts you into a dopamine-deprived zombie-like state of being.
(Side note: why can we not just acknowledge this? The amount of cope in the replies to this tweet of mine is insane. Lmao. Gonna have some black SUVs with a TikTok logo pull up outside my crib any day now 💀)
Ok. Off my soap box now. Truth is: the opportunities for trending content you can spot early on this platform are wild.
TikTok is powerful because it is the beginning of the life cycle for most trends.
This brings me to a crucial point here: the key to trend-spotting is finding trends early in their lifecycle before the mainstream population has grasped onto them.
Another way to think about it? If your aunt on Facebook is posting the meme — it’s too late.
Now, back to TikTok. Think about how many times you’ve heard of a ‘TikTok trend’ versus an ‘Instagram trend.’ Doesn’t even compare, right?
You should spend 30-45 minutes per day scrolling through the platform, looking for themes or trends. 30-45 minutes is plenty — you don’t need to be scrolling for hours.
Need an example of this in action?
A few weeks ago, I kept seeing Clancy’s Auto Body on my FYP a few weeks ago as I was scrolling.
I thought it was a hilarious strategy that my audience of social media marketers would enjoy learning about, so I wrote a Twitter thread on the topic.
🔥 5K+ new followers
🔥 40K+ like
🔥 6M+ views
This is the power of putting yourself in the right position to ‘run into’ trends that you can leverage in your content.
Like TikTok, Twitter is still fairly early in the trend lifecycle, so you’ll be able to spot trends and memes before they become ‘lame’ (as the kids would say).
Twitter is amazing for trend-spotting because you can get a live look at conversations with:
A) Your target audience
B) Industry experts and content creators
If you start to see patterns — this is when you should consider pouncing.
If I was scrolling on Twitter and I saw lots of DTC marketers (Triple Whale’s target audience) complaining about how their emails were landing in the spam folder more often now…
That’s a theme. And it could be a good topic for a piece of content.
And I’d probably make a meme like this:
Lmao. See how that works?
Snoop on key conversations in your industry and notice common themes. Then act on it in your content.
(This is also a great example of how ‘trending content’ isn’t just celebrity drama)
Mainstream brand accounts
The nice part about running social a niche account (like some sort of B2B SaaS or local service biz) is that you don’t need to be the first to hop on a trend for it to work for your brand.
In fact — you shouldn’t.
One of my tactics to 1) find trending formats 2) assess whether to use them is to look at what my friends running bigger, nationally known brands are doing.
For example, my homie Kevin Graham runs social over at Manscaped and is an expert at hopping on trends from the brand account.
If I see them hop on a current event or use a new meme template, that’s a good sign.
It’s not an immediate yes (I still have to think through whether it works for my brand). But I’ll at least consider it.
When you see multiple mainstream brand accounts hopping on a current event or trending post format — it’s a decent signal to at least consider it for your brand account.
Industry publications + niche content creators
Staying up-to-date with the latest news in your niche is so important. The best social media professionals do this religiously.
This is how you find industry-specific trends to lean into as a brand.
I work for a brand in the eCommerce industry. So I’ll stay up to date with some of the best newsletters in the space, like DTC Newsletter or Nik Sharma’s newsletter) to keep my finger on the pulse of what my target audience is talking about.
Risk VS Reward
Trends are cool. They work well to get your brand in front of more people.
But they can also tarnish your brand reputation overnight when used incorrectly, with a lack of taste.
One of the most important skills to develop as a social media manager is risk management.
Some marketers have a larger appetite for risk than others. Just like some investors would rather ape their family’s savings into crypto rather than index funds.
I’m pretty risk-averse when it comes to trending content.
If the downside of making a post is ruining my brand’s image on social media…
And the upside of a post is a few extra likes or followers…
I ain’t taking that chance. You do you, though.
I prefer to hop on memes and trending topics that I feel confident won’t agitate my target audience. There’s a difference between being tastefully polarizing with your content and just being a dickhead for some extra engagement on Twitter.
On the fence about posting something? Here’s what to do:
→ Run it by 1-2 other people in your marketing department
→ Run it by 1-2 external social media managers that you trust
(Don’t run it by legal. Kidding. Kind of.)
Want a deeper dive into how the best social media managers use trends to grow accounts faster?
You’re in luck.
I’m hosting a virtual workshop with my good friend — and Head of Social at Manscaped — Kevin Graham.
Here are the deets:
💰 Price: no price, it’s free
📅 Date: Thursday, March 30th
⏰ Time: 12pm EST (perfect for during your lunch break)
→ How to build a repeatable system to spot trends as you scroll social
→ How to decide which trends make sense for your brand, and even more important — how to decide which trends to pass on
→ How to correctly balance ‘trends’ and current event-based content with evergreen content in your overall strategy
→ Practical case studies of how Kevin taps into trends across Manscaped’s socials
You’ll also get the chance to ask Kevin and me any questions you have about this topic, or anything else regarding our approach to social strategy.
Register and secure your spot right here: REGISTER NOW
PS – can’t make it live? We’ll make sure to have the event recorded for you. Just enter your info here and I’ll shoot the footage over after the event goes down.