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Newsjacking: How to Proceed with Caution

NewsjackingThe trend known as “newsjacking” has become a popular activity for brands, and social media agency experts are generally supportive of the practice. Perhaps this is because 70 percent of consumers receive news on Facebook, and 36 percent get their news on Twitter. So by using a current news topic as an angle for a blog post or social media update, brands can get traction from trending topics while exhibiting social awareness.

But there are some rules that brands should follow when newsjacking, in order to protect their images and make current events work for them. Here are three guidelines for brands to follow when commenting on the news in social media:

Keep it Neutral

Unless your position is universally popular, resist the temptation to editorialize on the topic for which you are commenting. Here is an example of a social media post that features a universally popular position: “The events that took place in Boston this week were a horrific tragedy. Our hearts go out to all the victims and their families.” This is fine because it is an ideologically neutral, widely held position that will outlast any future outcomes of the event.

Conversely, here is an example of too much editorializing: “The events in Boston were not a ‘tragedy’ – they were clearly an act of terror!” This is what you don’t want to do, because it is an ideologically charged position that is not necessarily held by everyone in your audience (and even if it is held by everyone in your audience, it will be regarded as unprofessional for your brand to comment on it. Remember, your brand is speaking – not you). Unless you truly only want to target a very specific audience, it just doesn’t make sense to inject too much spin into your newsjacking efforts. Any reputable social media agency will caution against it.

Keep it Sensitive

When acknowledging a negative news event on social media, brands should never blatantly leverage a tragedy for their own advantage. Here is an example: When the Boston Marathon was targeted, the culinary site Epicurious committed what is being called the “ultimate #Fail” by cheerily tweeting out Boston-inspired recipes within hours of the tragedy. Even after apologizing and deleting the original tweets, the site is still being criticized for this serious breach of sensitivity. If you can comment on a current event in a way that is sensitive and avoid blatant self-promotion in the process, your brand will be looked upon favorably by the audience.

Keep it Rare

True, some events are nearly impossible to ignore. But newsjacking has its limits, and it is important to respect your audience enough to honor those limits. Rather than crafting a social media update for every judicial hearing, political debate and forest fire that takes place, reserve your comments for those events that are truly significant to the public discourse. Showing restraint when it is appropriate will help your brand as much as participating in the discussion will. If you would like to speak with a social media agency that can help you achieve a better presence on social channels, contact Crest Media today.

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