Trend jacking is a term that sounds a bit nefarious, isn’t it? In reality, though, this practice shares nothing in common with illegal or even unethical actions. It’s a legitimate content marketing tactic that gets your brand noticed and increases your presence on the internet.

What Is Trend Jacking?

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Also sometimes called news jacking, trend jacking means taking advantage of a trending topic and using it to your advantage. You might get an idea from a news headline or the front cover of a tabloid magazine. Alternatively, you can watch trending hashtags and check in with your Facebook wall for inspiration.

Trend jacking allows you to gain attention by using a news-worthy or trending event to amplify your content. Since you know people are searching for the topic online, you stand a better chance of getting found by forging a connection.

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For instance, let’s say a popular television show’s 10th season premieres next week. You could write a blog post about 10 lessons learned in your industry from that show’s main character. You not only get traffic from people who love the show, but you also turn an otherwise dull topic into an amusing and reflective commentary on pop culture.

Adding trend jacking to your content production efforts can dramatically impact your web traffic. You can increase your trend jacking performance by posting your content to social media. More than 2.3 billion people use social media worldwide. Facebook alone has an impressive 1.7 billion active users, which creates an enormous audience pool for your content.

White Hat Versus Black Hat Trend Jacking

While you can use trend jacking effectively in content production, you don’t want to hurt your brand reputation. If you use a tragic situation to gain more Twitter followers or increase blog traffic, internet users will respond negatively, and the web has a long memory for such mistakes.

In 2015, for instance, Gary Ennis reported on a spectacular trend jacking fail. Kenneth Cole, a fashion company, used Cairo’s political instability and civil unrest to promote its new spring collection. Predictably, the offending Tweet lives in infamy as a stellar example of how a brand can ruin its reputation in 140 characters or fewer.

This is often called black hat trend jacking. Using someone else’s misfortune — or that of thousands of people — to boost your brand image will likely cause backlash.

White hat trend jacking, however, uses more light-hearted trends. You might trend jack a political meme, an anticipated sports event, a celebrity awards show, or a touching story you read in the news. Just make sure your content gives the subject an appropriate level of respect.

Where to Find Trend Jacking Ideas

Now that you’re familiar with trend jacking best practices, how do you find opportunities? The problem most brands encounter is that you don’t have much time. If you trend jack too late, the interest has already faded, which means that your content becomes less compelling.

Create your content within hours of the news or event. This might seem almost impossible, but not if you focus on social media. Putting together a Tweet or Facebook post takes less time than writing a long-form blog post.

However, you can get away with longer lead times in certain situations. For instance, anticipation builds for weeks before the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards. With those types of big events, you can prepare a longer piece and trend jack the event before it fades into obscurity.

Look for trend jacking ideas in places that cover or reveal the news:

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  • Google news search feature
  • Twitter, Facebook, and other social media feeds
  • Your local newspaper (online or paper)
  • Watching entertainment news
  • Paying attention to conversations at the office

How to Maximize Your Trend Jacking Efforts

If you want to amp up your content production, start looking for trend jacking opportunities now. To use your ideas effectively, you need a few tips, such as the following:

  • Use software: Programs like TweetDeck can help you monitor news in real time and keep track of multiple feeds.
  • Optimize content: To make sure your content is as visible as possible, use modern SEO tactics to optimize it for the search engines.
  • Look for keywords: Don’t assume a specific long-tail keyword will generate traffic. After you find a trend jacking opportunity, conduct quick keyword research to find possible matches.
  • Find the context: A single headline from a news story won’t give you enough information for trend jacking. If you take the story out of context for your own content, you’ll incite anger among those who read your post. Learn as much as you can about the story before you use it for your own purposes.

You’ll find that the best trend jacking examples revolve around a high-profile trend that’s not related to the company that does the trend jacking. For instance, you could tie a celebrity’s latest quirky behavior with your HVAC company. The two have nothing in common, but when you make the link, your content will resonate with readers.

What to Do If You Cross a Line

Sometimes, it’s difficult to predict how people will respond to content. You might find nothing offensive or tacky about your trend jacking attempt, but suddenly you’re getting threats and insults via social media channels. You’ve enraged the public and you don’t even know why.

If you accidentally cross a line into black hat trend jacking, take a deep breath. Try to understand your critics’ point of view. If you recognize your misstep, publicly apologize. Explain why you made the mistake and offer sincere regrets.

Alternatively, if you feel that you’re the victim of an overreaction, you can apologize for offending people. You don’t have to go into any further detail. In future efforts, you can avoid inciting the same rage.

Trend jacking has become popular among small companies, public servants, nonprofit organizations, and Fortune 500 corporations alike. Use it to get your brand more attention and to create more engaging content for your audience.

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