Riding the Digital Wave: Using Social Media Trends in Marketing Strategies

Our Strat team members are like seasoned surfers, ready to conquer the biggest waves. The ocean is the vast digital landscape – and the waves? They’re the latest social media trends. Just like surfing, crafting a digital marketing strategy requires a keen eye on the horizon, a swift response to the changing tides, and the right techniques to ride each wave to success. 

Stoked to find out how they harness the power of the social media waves that are trending to create effective digital marketing strategies? Then, read on, dude.

The Surfboard: Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Before hitting the waves, every surfer needs a reliable surfboard. In digital marketing, your surfboard is your strategy – a plan that combines various digital marketing channels like social media, email marketing, and text messaging to achieve your marketing goals. 

When you choose Flume, you choose skilled strategists who understand that really knowing a client’s products or services – as well as the needs and interests of their target audience – is the key to designing a truly excellent surfboard.

One of our clients used to portion their digital media budget as follows:

+- 75% focused on online conversion

+- 20% focused on awareness and consideration

+- 5% on media innovations

We looked at the data and found that online conversions (e-commerce) only contributed around 7% of all sales. This meant an incredible overspend on the brand’s online efforts for only a portion of the return. The truth is that the market was not yet ready for such a heavy focus on e-commerce and still preferred to shop at our client’s stores. It meant that we had to use digital in a different way.

To that end, we recommended a restructuring of the client’s digital media budget:

We shifted and focused 70% of our client’s budget towards Awareness and Consideration. This was to help position the brand and its product categories and build up mental availability (mental structures) for our client’s business. We had to make sure that our client’s customers thought about our client’s brand first when they needed the category.

20% was attributed to nudges and investing in digital engagement ecosystems for those customers who wanted to engage with the brand.

The remaining 10% was attributed to e-commerce. It was enough to defend the current e-commerce contribution but also to grow the capability to keep up with customer behaviours.

The result? For two years running our client had their best performance on key campaigns compared to date.–Stephan Erasmus, Senior Digital Strategist 

Steph and his team reworked the brand’s existing surfboard so that it was more responsive to the market it was at the mercy of. While responding to social media trends is important, understanding the bigger picture before you capitalise on trends is even more important.  

Spotting the Wave: Identifying Social Media Trends

A skilled strategist knows how to identify and leverage social media trends. These trends can take many forms, from viral challenges and hashtags to the rise of new social platforms and content types like short-form video. 

When Zara launched their online store in South Africa, they capitalised on two trends: hashtagging and micro-influencers.

The official hashtag used for the Zara online store campaign, #DearSouthAfrica, only surfaced on social media on Monday 16 September 2019. But as soon as micro-influencers took to Twitter on Tuesday, 17 September to share announcements that they were a part of the new Zara online store campaign, the hashtag saw an explosion of traction that garnered a total social reach of 6.25M people worldwide. On the day of the online store launch, this number had increased to 7.88M. (Thanks, Bizcommunity, for that info.) 

Zara’s marketing team saw that micro-influencers hold significant power when it comes to the trending wave of influencer marketing. They also saw that this type of influencer (as opposed to a nano-influencer, macro-influencer or mega-influencer) fit their objectives and target audience. Micro-influencers are known to have higher engagement rates than influencers with bigger followings and so using their influence on a social media platform like Twitter/X worked well for the Zara campaign. 

When skilled strategists keep an eye on possible trend opportunities, it can help a brand to stay top-of-mind, relevant and more engaging. Cowabunga, dude! (Do people still say that? Did they ever?) 

Catching the Wave: Creating Content That Rides the Trend

It’s great that Zara spotted the wave (or waves, in this case) and made the leap of faith necessary… But how you ride a social media trend is just as important as spotting it. The task of a digital marketing strategist is to catch the wave (not wipeout) and create quality content that leverages and effectively capitalises on the trend.  

This is where creativity and quick thinking come into play. 

And what’s quicker than “the fiercest tiger you have ever seen”? 

(How Flume Strat Beast Zanthé Agrela likes to describe herself. If you met her, we think you’d agree it’s a spot-on metaphor.)

Nothing’s quicker than that.

Like a surfer adjusting their stance to maintain balance, digital marketing strategists must be flexible and responsive. A key aspect of this is monitoring the different marketing channels the brand is on and analysing its performance metrics. A skilled strategist knows to ask: Are the posts generating the expected engagement? Is the conversion rate improving? 

Tools like search engine optimisation (SEO) can help boost your visibility, while analytics provide insights into what’s working and what isn’t. This ongoing evaluation allows for continual tweaking to ensure the strategy is still aligned with the original marketing goals.

Side-note: Don’t Miss the Wood for the Trees

While being able to identify social media waves that are trending is important, remember to follow the golden rules that help keep your brand consistent and your marketing grounded: 

I take a dual approach to staying informed on the latest trends. While we try and stay on top of fads, trends and digital technologies (and there are A LOT of new things), it is so very important to keep a bigger view of customers’ behaviours and ambitions. 

Jeff Bezos is famous for asking not what would change over the next 10 years, but what WOULDN’T change. So while it’s important to know what digital technologies are available and new, it is even more important to consider these in the context of how it could/should achieve the larger goal of supporting our client’s customers’ preferences and behaviours.

–The also-pretty-tigerish-but-in-a-Frosties-way Strat Beast Steph

Following golden rules and knowing what NOT to change is important. Losing a brand’s personality and voice in the mad dash to hop onto a trend can be severely damaging to a brand. 

The Wave of the Future: Hang 10 & Stay Ahead

Surfing the digital waves is an ongoing journey, and new trends are constantly emerging. That’s why our Strat Beasts are always learning, always evolving.

And the recent explosion of AI tools (with tools like machine learning becoming integrated into digital marketing, for example) has proven that this adaptability is non-negotiable. 

Conclusion

Creating a digital marketing strategy that takes social media trends into account is kind of like surfing; it requires skill, agility, and a willingness to embrace the unpredictable. By identifying trends, creating relevant content, and continuously adapting the strategic approach, our Strat Beasts help brands ride the waves with grace – and kill their marketing goals!

Keen to access skilled digital marketing surfers? Contact the team.

Flume is an independent, full-service digital marketing agency providing services that include SEO, web design and development, public relations, media buying, client service, UX/UI, and creative production. For more information visit www.flume.co.za or email us  to say, well, “hello”.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the significance of a digital marketing strategy in the context of surfing social media trends?

    A digital marketing strategy is compared to a surfboard that surfers rely on to ride waves. In digital marketing, this strategy encompasses various channels like social media, email marketing, and text messaging to achieve marketing goals. Skilled strategists, like those at Flume, craft tailored strategies based on a deep understanding of clients' products, services, and target audiences.

  • How did Flume help a client restructure their digital media budget for better results?

    Flume analyzed the client's digital media budget allocation and found an overspend on online conversions, which only contributed to 7% of sales. They recommended shifting 70% of the budget towards Awareness and Consideration to build brand recognition, 20% towards digital engagement ecosystems, and 10% to defend and grow e-commerce capabilities. This restructuring led to the client's best campaign performance for two consecutive years.

  • How can identifying social media trends benefit a brand's marketing strategy?

    Identifying social media trends allows strategists to leverage viral challenges, hashtags, and new content types to keep a brand relevant and engaging. For example, Zara successfully used micro-influencers and the hashtag #DearSouthAfrica to boost their online store campaign, resulting in significant social reach and engagement.

  • What role does content creation play in capitalizing on social media trends?

    Creating content that effectively rides social media trends is crucial. Digital marketing strategists must be creative and quick-thinking to produce quality content that aligns with current trends. This involves monitoring performance metrics and adjusting strategies as needed to maintain balance and achieve marketing goals

  • Why is it important to balance trend-hopping with maintaining a brand's core values?

    While staying on top of trends is important, it is equally crucial to follow golden rules that ensure brand consistency. Strategists should focus on long-term customer behaviors and preferences, as emphasized by Jeff Bezos' approach to identifying what won't change over the next decade. This helps avoid losing the brand's personality and voice in the rush to capitalize on trends, ultimately supporting a brand's larger marketing goals.

     
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