Injecting your content into trending news can be a great tool to increase your exposure and following, but be careful — it can make or break your strategy. Learn how to “newsjack” properly before setting out on this risky, yet rewarding way of promotion.
What is newsjacking?
Newsjacking is taking advantage of the next big story or breaking news by incorporating it in to your content. It’s pretty popular and it’s clear why: whenever there is a trending hashtag on social media or a spike in searches for articles about the next big story, your content has a chance of getting in front of the people who otherwise wouldn’t see your messages.
The most frequent examples of this technique are things like snack recipes around Super Bowl that have a title along the lines of “Tailgating snacks before the Big Game” or wardrobe tips along the lines of “How to Watch Oscars in Style.”
Savvy content creators know that there is an obvious interest in these big events and that they can boost their exposure by simply aligning their knowledge with trending topics. Could they post these same snack recipes some other time and just call it “yummy snacks you can enjoy whenever?” Absolutely; but that would not get as much interest.
Oreo Super Bowl Tweet
Perhaps the biggest awakening to the power of social media newsjacking was the brilliant Oreo tweet when the power went out during the 2013 Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. The cookie company jumped on this seemingly unrelated opportunity to create one of the most memorable social media moments.
The tweet was retweeted 10,000 times in one hour, according to AdAge. During that same game, Oreo had their traditional 30-second commercial, which cost an estimated $2 million. Arguably, the tweet was much more meaningful, memorable and way cheaper.
Arby’s Grammy Hit
Arby’s huge move during the Grammy’s was with its joke about Pharrell Williams’ hat. The tweet received nearly nine times the number of retweets and favorites of Oreo’s well-played social game.
You can do this too.
You don’t need to own a multi-million corporation to win big at the Super Bowl or any other major TV event. Be sure you are ready to create and send out your message fast, using a good sense of humor, and a good graphic to go along with it.
Let’s examine these two instances as a fine example of successful and effective “newsjacking.” What does your content need in order to succeed at this undertaking?
Keep time constraints in mind when creating such content. It might be relevant only for a short period of time. If you’re not invested in this experiment actively, don’t bother. You have just a little bit of time to juice this story out and promote your content on social media aggressively. If you’re just going to write a post and leave it hanging there hoping that page rank algorithms will magically bring it up on the first page, chances are, it won’t happen; you need to create the traffic by heating up the interest.
This is the most important thing. You have to come up with, create, and package your content faster than everyone else. This is the most difficult part, because it pays well. You need to be blogging, tweeting, or broadcasting video in live mode. Not only will your content reap the most initial exposure, live blogging will also get you in a habit of creating content fast.
If you take days to create content about the Oscars, everyone will have already discussed the outfits, the acceptance speeches, the host jokes, the nominees, the winners, everything. Unless, you have a completely unique perspective that may be shocking or truly in-depth, even three days afterwards is late.
Oreo reacted to an event within 15 minutes of its happening; this is why it was so edgy and ingenious.
You can create “meh” content and get that initial exposure, but readers will leave your content as soon as they start reading. Other content creators will get on the trending topic and only the best content will win.
Average content will be lost in the sea of other average content; only outstanding content will stick with readers. Your content doesn’t have to hilarious, but it needs to be interesting and unique enough to be remembered.
Make sure that the event you’re touching upon is positive, or at least neutral. Don’t try to exploit a negative situation that has bad consequences.
You want people to connect with your message and your brand, not posting angry comments underneath it. If you decide to make a joke, ensure it’s not too edgy and offensive for some. Don’t cross that line, because this is where newsjacking can break you.
There are multiple stories of companies that had to apologize after their unsuccessful attempts at humor. Again, if you can’t come up with a clever joke fast (I don’t judge), stick to a smart content that informs or expands on the event.
While Oreo has nothing to do with football (or power outages, or light bulbs) and Arby’s has nothing to do with music awards, they made the best out of situation. The reason for that might be that about 30 people on a team put their heads together. If you’re doing this alone, or with one other person, practice on events that are more relevant to your industry and are less urgent.
A good example of that would be a big car show for automotive industry, where you can inform readers on new vehicle reveals while inserting your messages into the story. Or, if you’re in a food business, you can talk about a cooking TV competition show and bring it back to your own culinary creations.
It’s always great to have a plan, so check the calendar and see what celebrations, events, and anticipated news might come your way. Draft it in your calendar and start thinking what you want to say before you say it. What is the anticipated moment or outcome of the event? Will there be losers and winners? If so, how can you incorporate that without making anyone mad?
Overall, this is a great strategy to use once in a while. Just be mindful of the timing, the overall mood, and the relevancy. Practice on smaller, less controversial events first to get a feel for what it’s like to align your brand with breaking news.