Newsjacking: How to Use Recent Events to Get Traction on Social Media

How to Use Recent Events to Get Traction on Social Media

Chances are, you’ve imbibed a tidbit or two about keeping your social efforts relevant to current events. Turning to the news for content ideas will keep you chock full of inspiration, and will also help you piggyback on search terms potential customers are already entering.

However, “newsjacking” can be easier said than done. For a good model, let’s take a look at a few brands that get it right.

Simply Measured’s LinkedIn Acquisition News Coverage

Simply Measured’s LinkedIn Acquisition News Coverage

Worldwide events aren’t the only newsworthy story. As social media analytics company, Simply Measured, understands, even acquisitions and mergers can make for compelling content — just as long as it is again framed through their unique company lens.

That’s what the company did with their recent article covering LinkedIn’s Newsle Acquisition, which covered not just details about the deal itself but also why it mattered to marketers — their primary audience. Like all of the company’s content, the post is chock full of expert analysis, but is still broken up on the page for easy scanning and is otherwise visually compelling.

Of course, the brand shared the post on their social media pages for good brand building and traffic driving.

Lookout’s Mobile Theft Page

Lookout’s Mobile Theft Page

As a mobile security company, Lookout’s content might seem hyper relevant no matter what, given the proliferation of the mobile platform. At the very least blogposts like “What You Should Do If Your Phone is Stolen” is guaranteed to be useful to a number of people every day.

The title is also a highly searched term, and it goes a long way towards establishing the brand’s expertise in the arena.

But while this content may always be relevant, the brand made it even more so by repurposing this content for the World Cup, which was certainly setting many trends across social media when it was in play. The brand began by creating a SlideShare.

The SlideShare features all sorts of World Cup-relevant tips, like how to guard against theft in a crowd, why you shouldn’t download apps while abroad, and how to watch your mobile wallet. This excellent repurposed content was then promoted on the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well as on the SlideShare feed, resulting in more traffic and shares.

Arby’s Grammy Awards Tweet

Arby's and Pharrell tweets at the #grammys

Of course, social media is often at its best with a simple line to hook into a news trend.

Arby’s provided a classic example of this with their 2014 tweet pictured above, which tapped into the ongoing Grammy Awards. This tweet was a success in part because it was well-timed and newsjacked the ongoing Grammys, but it was also really funny since Pharrell Williams’ hat does look like their logo. The original tweet was retweeted almost 90,000 times, and Pharrell’s response received great engagement too.

4 Dont’s of Newsjacking

There are countless ways to fail at newsjacking, whether you’re simply not making the most of your efforts or, um, completely torpedoing your brand. Here are a few key things to avoid.

1) Reckless Tagging

Just because something is trending, doesn’t mean it has anything to do with your content and your brand.

Slapping in a few trending hashtags is all well and good, until a consumer clicks on your post and finds information that’s completely irrelevant to their search. Angering viewers is never a good idea, but especially not on social, where disgruntlement spreads like wildfire.

So, keep it relevant, both in the content you choose to tweet and in the way you shape your social media posts to fit the topic of the day.

2) Scheduling Too Far in Advance

Scheduling services like HootSuite are great in terms of social media management, as you can load up a number of tweets at once and then set them to post automatically. Doing so is even possible when attempting to newsjack some stories, as many will still have legs an hour or two if you have to run out for a client lunch meeting (but do keep in mind the faster you can newsjack, the better it will go for you).

But scheduling a newsjacked post (or any post, really) fails miserably when a bigger news story breaks, and there your brand is left writing completely irrelevant things — or, worse yet, things that are now offensive given the bigger post.

It doesn’t, for example, look very good if your scheduled tweet is quipping about Kim Kardashian’s latest relationship news when a national tragedy is unfolding on the TV airwaves. In sum, don’t let your newsjacking of one story let you lose track of a bigger one.

3) Being Blatantly Opportunist

All newsjacking is opportunist, but it’s not fun for anyone if it feels that way.

Spaghettio’s learned this lesson the hard way when they posted a picture of a Spaghettio holding an American flag with the message, “Take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us.” It’d be one thing if the US Army posted this, but Spaghettio’s has absolutely nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, and the tweet seems downright cynical, like their followers are dumb enough to think their true goal is patriotism.

It was an arrogant move, and one they paid for dearly with angry responses.

4) Making Light of Things That Aren’t Funny

From the Kenneth Cole tweets about the Arab Spring and the conflict in Syria to ex-PR executive Justine Sacco’s tweet about AIDS, making fun of a situation that isn’t funny is a common mistake high-powered people and brands make.

Oftentimes, this kind of humor only highlights the tweeter’s privilege. While it can be blatantly opportunist, it’s also just arrogant, insensitive and mean — adjectives that don’t do much to build a brand’s reputation.

The Takeaway

All of that said, there are many excellent ways to use newsjacking to your advantage, just as long as you take the time to think before you post, stick to your expertise, and try your best to frame your message so that it’s actually relevant. What are the best examples of newsjacking that you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Mary Mashburn

    Good article! Learned some new social media lingo… “newsjacking!” Great tips to keep in mind when starting a new campaign with a brand that may be less savvy with social media. Thanks for sharing.

  • Katrine Hviid

    In DK the #Vasegate got quite the reactions. Originating from a anniversary vase from Kähler – of course a limited addition. Everyone went nuts about it and wanted to have it. Because of the hysteria other brands took the advantage to put golden stripes on their products and market it with the #Vasegate. Check it out. It is really funny and well played by the other brands.

  • The original tweet was retweeted almost 90,000 times, and Pharrell’s response received great engagement too.
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