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Top tips for hacking trends for social media growth

19 November 2021

Jumping on trends can be a fast track to reaching more people and growing your social audience. Understanding social trends and reacting to them can put your organisation out in front of new audiences, share your core messages and grow your brand awareness.

In the last year at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) UK, timely and reactive content has outperformed scheduled content. This year alone, with a focus on reactive content, we’ve seen some of the best engagement figures and highest performing posts, gaining nearly 10,000 new followers across networks, 6,500 of which are on Instagram.

So how do we do it?

Researching and monitoring trends: Keeping a finger on the pulse

The first step is making space to track, research and monitor trends.

Carving out capacity is essential to finding those golden moments where your messaging aligns with a trending topic. Here are some tools and tricks I use for social listening to keep on top of trends:

  • Block out some time in your calendar during the morning to prioritise looking across your social channels, pick up recurring themes or trending hashtags and check them against messaging and moments in your organisation.
  • Start twitter lists with partners, competitors and influential accounts in your main subject areas, have a scroll through to see what conversations are bubbling.
  • Set up searches on Google Trends to monitor trending topics on an expansive level. The tool uses search data, giving you a much broader picture of what is trending than you’d see on a single social network.
  • Search keywords in google news and create Google Alert’s for any keyword you want to watch, so you will always know what is happening. Finding and sharing news that has positive stories on refugees has been very rewarding on Facebook for IRC UK.
  • Sign up for listening tools to get an overarching picture. These are often paid for but might be available on platforms you already use. Sprout Social has a listening tab where you can set keywords and measure conversation. CrowdTangle is another tool some organisations use.

Reacting to trends and creating content

The second part of my approach is deciding on how and when to react. Reacting can be something as small (but effective) as commenting on a post or quote retweeting. For example, all of the brands that used quote RT’s from the red flag trend, including one from Save the children, did really well because they were tapping into a cultural moment. Plus people are still using the red flags weeks later.

But the biggest bang for your buck would be to create a piece of content. Now, this doesn’t always mean creating something new and fancy; it could be as simple as screenshotting a tweet and sharing it across other channels.

For example, last year, we shared a tweet from Lord Alf Dubs, an ex-MP and prominent leader in conversation around refugees.

Likewise, you can share a quote with a stock image. Here we used a quote from Warsan Shire’s poem about refugees. This worked because it simplified the harsh realities refugee families face and tied into a media conversation around refugee crossings.

Another example, of how we tapped into a cultural moment was during the Euros this year. During my morning hour researching trends and conversations, I came across a post by Migration Museum which highlighted the diversity of the England Lions. This inspired us to create our own graphic that celebrated the powerful message of welcoming and celebrating different cultures.

This post went semi-viral and was replicated thousands of times on other platforms and accounts. Gaining the most traction on Instagram but significantly on Twitter and other channels too. We shared it just before England played in the semi-final and in the same week visits to our landing page through combined direct and Google search increased by 130% compared to the previous week.

We also followed this topic of conversation up with a case study style post about a father and son from one of our programmes enjoying watching the Euros.

This reactive tactic has worked time and time again for IRC UK during events including G7, the olympics and national topics of conversion such as women’s rights and the Afghanistan crisis. All of which have enabled us to use our technical expertise as an additional educational element to the content and has seen it perform really well.

Choosing when to react and if it is the right moment for your brand can be difficult. If you can, get a small team together to bounce ideas off, share trending moments between you and see if any part of your organisation is relevant to it. Reacting quickly or first can be really beneficial but it’s not always necessary, for example, we waited a week to post our Euros graphic whilst the tournament was ongoing. As someone working in communications, you will have a gut feeling and red lines to follow for your brand which apply to social media including reactive content. Trust your gut but don’t be afraid to try new things.

These are just some of the different ways IRC UK have been able to react and tap into trends. Social media is an ever-changing landscape, and while planning and being prepared is important for strong and powerful digital communication, it is vital to have a team – with processes and structures – that allow for agile working and being reactive. And be aware sometimes that will mean being ready and prepared to drop scheduled content in favour of real-time interests and cultural moments. Although, at times it doesn’t always feel easy to do: I have found it always brings in results.


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Banner Image: Grant S on Unsplash

Taome Bamford-White

digital and social officer, International Rescue Committee

Taome has spent over five years working in communications for some of the top international charities based in the UK. She is an experienced content creator, digital marketer and qualified multimedia editor who loves working in communications.