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The bandwagon effect: what brands need to know about working with social media trends

What should you take into account before jumping on a social media trend?

The phrase ‘jump on the bandwagon’ first appeared in American politics in 1848 when a circus clown called Dan Rice used his bandwagon and its music to gain attention for his political campaign appearances. As his campaign gained popularity many other politicians wanted a seat on the wagon, associating themselves with Rice's success.

As the years went by, the term gained negative connotations, implying people were happy to be associated with success without actually considering what they were affiliating themselves with.

Fast forward a hundred years or so and you will still find this phrase being used today. In this ever-changing digital world trends come and go, so as a marketer how do you make an informed decision as to which ones to jump on?

As a social media manager navigating this can be tricky. Do I feel the urge to cover something in beans and tweet Weetabix? Maybe. Should I? No. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely loved watching all the replies on the Weetabix thread this week, but trying to weave The Drum into the conversation wouldn’t have worked. Getting involved in trends that do not suit your brand ethos can be pretty detrimental in the long run.

Your brand doesn’t need to be on every social media app either. Last year there was a lot of hype around TikTok, right now it’s Clubhouse. Considering new platforms to use is exciting, but the first step should always be researching. Figure out your target audience and assess if it lines up with the demographics of the app. For example, TikTok recently published their 2020 ‘What’s Next’ trend report highlighting key trends from the past year. The document is available to anyone and highlights the growth of different topics over time while giving a brief explanation of the driving force behind them. This kind of information is extremely useful and should be a huge decision maker for any person working in social.

To establish a successful presence on any new platform or trend takes careful planning and resources. Every social media manager will encounter ‘we should have an x, y, and z account’ at some point in their career. Knowing when to say yes or no, plus having the information to back your judgment, is an amazing skill to have.

­­We asked our Twitter community how they navigate new social media trends and platforms. Here’s what they had to say.

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