How many of you had bosses (or clients) email you frantically after Oreo’s brilliant Super Bowl blackout Tweets and told you to do something just like it, completely missing the point of real-time marketing?
How many had emails flood your inbox requesting Harlem Shake videos, after at least 100 others had already been done and after the meme quickly grew tiresome? How many times have you considered Kickstarter without really considering it, just because “everyone else (and by everyone else, we just mean Zach Braff and Melissa Joan Hart) is doing it?”
While you’re banging your head trying to come up with something “just like it,” you’re missing the point. All of these successful tactics happened because they were among the first to do them, clearly thought their ideas through, and they captured a moment that would be difficult to recreate. Restrain yourself from reading about a trend, immediately wanting to jump on it without thinking about whether it strategically makes sense, and shoehorn your brand onto the trend with little to no creativity or strategy.
Everyone else that follows looks just like that – a follower. And no one typically achieves even a fraction of the success that the originator had. Plenty others just plain fail and fail hard (see also: Hart, Melissa Joan).
Is our point that you can’t follow trends? Of course not. Our entire job is built on following trends. However, you can’t expect to recreate lighting-in-a-bottle type moments, and you can’t expect to follow a trend and generate as much success unless what you do is magically creative (and if it were, well, it wouldn’t be following a trend so much as creating one). The point is to not frantically jump on the bandwagon but to strategically consider whether the trend works for your brand, and how you can make it original and interesting, rather than desperate and opportunistic.
So next time you see a brand doing something brilliant on social media, don’t think about the ways you can imitate their success. Think about doing something entirely different, entirely new and entirely creative, even if it’s using the same tactic. While everyone is desperately trying to figure out what makes a video go viral, someone else has already racked up a million views.