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Social Media Trends: When to Participate, and When to Pass

Trending! It’s a word that has come to mean more than whether bell bottoms are hot or not. By definition, a trending topic is one that experiences a surge in popularity on social media for a limited time. The concept of trending first appeared on Twitter, where hashtags are used to group said trending content. Social media trends now exist on all major social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and beyond.

More on social media trends

Trends range from the silliest of silly (cue the recent #DollyPartonChallenge) to hard-hitting news topics (#ImpeachmentTrials) and social movements (like #MeToo).  Thus, trends serve to both inform and entertain.

By nature, social media trends are fleeting. What’s trending one week (or one day, or one hour) may be an afterthought by the next. The advantage of their transitory nature is that social media users know that if something is trending, they are abreast of the latest news, fads, etc. The disadvantage is that there’s always something new to take its place, so its benefit doesn’t stick around for long.

Examples of a few famous trending topics include:

  • #BlackLivesMatter
  • #TheDress
  • #IceBucketChallenge
  • #Brexit
  • #WorldCup
  • #HeforShe
  • #GoT

Trending at the time of writing this blog:

  • #EndTheStigma
  • #CoronaVirus
  • #MentalHealth
  • #KobeFarewell

Using trends in marketing

Jumping on trending topics can be a boon for your daily social marketing efforts. Marketers have long used social media trends to connect with followers and join in conversations happening digitally on a global scale. Though the effect of trend participation are often fleeting, the right type of involvement can signal significant reward in the right circumstances.

Sometimes, however, participating in social media trends as a business can end up doing more harm than good. Here’s when to participate in trending topics on social media—and when to pass.

Participate in social media trends:

When content is relevant to your brand.

Is a trending topic particularly relevant to your business? Take advantage of the fact that it is trending by getting in on the conversation. For example, a clothing retailer especially could have capitalized on #TheDress debate.

When it is timely and people are still interested.

If a topic is trending, that means it’s got millions of eyes on it. Don’t miss the opportunity to strike while the iron is hot!

When you can cast your own spin on it while still staying on trend.

If you can get creative while still relating to what’s trending, all the more reason to add it to your social media efforts. People will applaud your ingenuity. Check out our version of the #DollyPartonChallenge.

When you are passionate about the topic.

If there is a social movement happening that your brand is passionate about, then don’t hesitate to let people know why. Just remember to remain professional.

Pass on social media trends:

When the trend is no longer trending.

If you’re late to the game regarding social media trends, it may be best just to let that one go. Posting about a trend past its prime is not a good look.

When the trend is not appropriate.

This is either in general, for your target audience, or for your brand. If your audience won’t understand, won’t care, or worse—won’t think it’s appropriate, you should probably pass on posting about the trending topic.

When you’re repeating what already been done.

If you don’t have a fresh angle to bring to the table, then the social media trend may not be beneficial for you to participate in. Remember, millions of people are posting about it online, so the goal is to curate something that stands out.

When your passion may be too strong.

It’s great to be passionate about what’s going on in the world, but expressing opinions has a time and place—especially in business. If you feel that your passion about a topic could be strong enough to offend your clientele, you may want to rethink jumping on the trend.


Paying attention to social media trends in your marketing efforts can help you appear relevant and informed, while allowing you to join in on a global conversation. Be sure, however, that your timing and type of involvement is appropriate for the brand image you are wanting to portray.

McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

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