Social media and the concept of being “always connected” has forever changed the way news is produced - many would even argue that it has changed it for the worse.
There are a several key elements within this phenomenon - for one, the modern news cycle never stops.
Secondly, this drastic spike in demand for content has resulted in news outlets churning out more material than ever before. For example, The Washington Post claims to publish an average of 1,200 stories, graphics, and videos each day. Thats a lot of content.
Thirdly, social media has given everyone a voice, a platform from which to voice their opinions to the masses. All consumers now have the ability to contribute to the conversation and add their two cents.
Being that social media is essential in today’s marketing mix, these factors can make a strategy incredibly complicated. Using breaking news to help boost your messaging can be highly effective, but it needs to be approached very carefully to avoid potential backlash.
In this post, we'll look at how you can wisely use the frantic news cycle on social media to your advantage - and highlight the potential pitfalls that can come with 'newsjacking'.
Know the Purpose
The fast-paced news cycle on social media seems to get crazier by the minute. In this era of clickbait journalism, people everywhere are beginning to question the angles of breaking stories. Are they being strategically positioned to invoke a certain reaction that drives a desired outcome?
If you elect to use a breaking news story in your social media strategy, you need to have a clear goal in mind.
Brands use breaking news stories all the time for a number of reasons - perhaps it’s to capitalize on a relevant topic as it’s getting widespread attention.
For example, the recent release of Apple’s ARKit has been making giant waves across social media, and new apps are using this trend to promote their own launches to the world.
Using breaking news in your social media strategy can also be a great opportunity to convey your brand’s values.
This can go well beyond the bottom line - for example, following the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, one of the breaking stories talked about how gas was running low and stations in the area were not re-upping. So, GasBuddy, tweaked its program to accommodate those in the disaster region.
If a breaking news story presents a unique opportunity for your business to improve its reach, do not act without a plan. Be sure you know exactly what purpose your contribution will serve to you and the readers.
Look at ALL the Facts
Perhaps the most unfortunate side effect of the constant news cycle on social media is that, in some cases, the importance of factual information has seemingly been placed on the backburner.
One of the worst examples this phenomenon occurred back in 2012 following the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting - when CNN, one of the biggest news networks in the United States, released their initial story, they mistakenly identified the shooter as Ryan Lanza. Lanza’s face was posted all over social media, fueling public condemnation of his actions. But as they day went on, it became apparent Ryan Lanza was not the shooter; it was his younger brother. In fact, Ryan Lanza wasn’t even in the state of Connecticut when the events occurred.
The coverage of Sandy Hook proves that news outlets don’t always prioritize the facts - instead, they prioritize speed to get viral content published.
Because of the rising amount of misinformation posted in the race to break the latest news, businesses can easily lose their credibility if they act on such reports without knowing the full story, and accuracy of the details. Even though much of this is dependent on the news outlets, businesses must be wise about how they pick and choose stories to provide input. Patience, as always, can be key.
Knowing the facts is perhaps the biggest issue facing news today, which is why Facebook recently announced their plans in the fight against fake news through their new partnership with FactCheck.org.
Don't Feel Obligated to Chime In
Many social media strategies these days are designed to meet a schedule. These schedules are determined by looking at the data to determine when followers are most engaged, and posts are likely to reach as many viewers as possible.
When a big news story hits the airwaves, as a business, it’s important to realize that if you choose to chime in, you are treading on dangerous ground.
Even though much of a successful content marketing strategy is dependent on being relevant and in-tune with the world around it, businesses should never feel obligated to take part in trending issues simply to meet their schedule. The more breaking news you involve yourself in, the more risk you're taking.
In the interest of meeting a posting schedule, it’s wise to create a strong bank of “evergreen” content. This refers to information that is not time sensitive and remains objectively relevant in the face of continuing industry evolution.
With such a strategy, you don’t have to worry as much about a slow news day in your industry, nor do you need to scramble to get content posted in order to meet your timelines.
Once you get through your post sets, you can easily recycle or shuffle them as necessary to ensure you don’t miss a beat.
When it comes to breaking news, sometimes it’s best to sit a play out.
Consider the Ripple Effect
When you look at some of the biggest corporate mistakes on social media, most of them can be traced back to failing to consider the ripple effect.
The fact that everyone has a voice on social media makes it almost inevitable that someone will be offended by something you say, however, this shouldn’t deter you from using breaking news in your social media strategy.
You just need to be sure you won’t offend large masses of people with a post.
In December of last year, Cinnabon found themselves in hot water after using the death of popular actress Carrie Fisher to promote their product.
Even though the nature of this post was likely formulated with no malicious intent, many people saw it as a cheap way to gain publicity – and they weren’t shy about sharing their opinions on the matter.
Using breaking news on social media for business purposes involves quick, but extremely empathetic thinking. When coming up with your concept on how to chime in, get as many people in the room as possible to look at the post from all angles and see if there are any blaring ways people might take offense.
You can also consider using a content analysis tool such as Buzzsumo, which enables you to track trending topics, industry keywords and brands across social media, as well as media publications and the blogosphere, in order to get a feel for how people are reacting to them.
Once you get an idea of the general mindset, you'll be in a much better position to create a post that doesn’t come off as insensitive.
Over to You
Hooking up your business with the realm of breaking news is a high risk/high reward proposition. You need to plan carefully - because as everyone knows, the masses on social media aren’t exactly shy about expressing their opinions.
Social media has become one of the most popular hubs for people to get their news. If you choose to use a breaking news story for branding purposes, always look at the big picture.