The world has become obsessed with memes and virality, and digital marketers may be at the forefront of that obsession. When the true color of a dress became a hot-button debate topic both on the internet and in real life, brands flocked to social media to grab a piece of all the attention. Such is the power of a meme—it rumbles to life like an avalanche, dominating the digital landscape and sweeping up almost everyone who encounters it until it abruptly stops.
All this appropriation of memes for inbound marketing purposes actually speaks to the importance of something less ephemeral. A brand weighing in on viral content is reactively trying to own some of the conversation revolving around it. It’s not the meme itself that’s valuable to an inbound brand, nor is the clever, pithy tweet or Facebook post regarding it—it’s the discussion itself.
The world is more digitally connected than ever, allowing for conversations to emerge organically among friends and strangers. But, sociologically, the fact that seemingly everyone on the internet has strong opinions on everything has raised the cachet of trusted recommendations, those that come from real-life friends and family.
Where does your brand fit in this broad cultural concept? You can do as much as you can with the content you produce, refining its tone and subject matter to appeal to those you want to reach. But after you’ve published it, the real work lies in the people’s hands.
Inbound content is intended to start a larger conversation about your brand, ideally leading to those precious trusted recommendations. Someone takes in the content, enjoys it and then recommends it—and, by extension, your company—to those close to them. Here are a few tips for getting the discussion started and flowing freely.
1. Keep your ear to the ground...
We opened this article talking about memes and viral content. That speaks to a broader concept of timeliness. Supplementing more serious content with appropriate reactions to news, pop culture, internet trends and other lifestyle-based topics helps to place your brand in front of more eyes. Plus, those pieces tend to have more potential for social sharing.
2. But don't dwell on trends
That said, your followers will notice if your brand chases every meme or trendy topic. Weighing in on such things all the time won’t come across as genuine; it will make your brand seem cynically opportunistic. Pick your spots and don’t jump on topics too late or beat the conversation to death, because a brand that’s a bit too caught up in trends can smack of desperation.
3. Stand by your brand values
Brand-buyer relationships stem from shared ideals. Be true to your brand’s self and keep your company values in the buyers’ minds. The more people can recognize values of their own in your content, the more they will invest in their relationship with your brand. Be authentic, be genuine and have a clear ethos.
4. Incentivize Sharing
Incentivization is the magic word in leveraging social sharing. You can motivate people in a lot of ways, but the more it involves them directly, the more genuine that incentivization is. Be creative and think of ways to offer recognition as a form of motivation. For example, start a conversation with a piece of content, prompt people to provide their own takes on the topic and then publicize the best responses through your social media channels.
5. Most of all, listen and respond
Good conversation involves a respectful give-and-take. Listen, ingest what you’ve heard and respond. People are greatly encouraged by a brand willing to take the time to respond to them. The more human those interactions they have with the brand are, the more they’ll be willing to spread that experience to their friends and family because you’ve built a genuine level of trust with them. To keep conversations revolving around your brand and its inbound content, that trust is crucial.