How To Avoid Hopping on the Wrong Trend

Part of digital strategy is knowing how to capitalize on social media trends.

couple using they mobile phone

Not all trends are created equal.

As anyone who watches the fluctuations in social media platforms carefully will know, some trends develop naturally and others are, shall we say, forced to occur.

Part of digital strategy is knowing how to capitalize on social media trends — whether they be viral sensations on an existing platform or the emergence of a new one. A hardworking, diligent digital marketer does not have time to mess around with flash in the pan trends that won't see the end of the month.

So here's how you can avoid wasting your time on dead-end trends.

All the wrong people are jumping on it

Many are familiar with the term "ambulance chasers" — unscrupulous legal aids who follow ambulances to the hospital in hopes of securing a new client so they can make a quick buck off of a lawsuit.

In the marketing and social media world, there is a similar phenomenon: trend chasers. Marketers who will hop on literally any new platform or meme the second it comes out of the metaphorical oven. And, much like touching a steaming hot pie, they tend to get burned. I use the term "marketers" lightly because these people aren't marketing anything except their cult of personality, calling themselves "disruptive entrepreneurs." Translation: unemployed hustlers or bored trust fund kids.

A word to the wise: experiment with new social media at your leisure, but steer clear of these people. They're only talking to you because they think they can get you to pay for their sketchy self-help class — it's the digital version of a Tupperware party.

Anywhere that trend chasers are, you probably don't want to be. They swarm new social media platforms like locusts and quickly turn interesting concepts into multi-level marketing pitches.

Case in point: the NFT boom of 2022.

There was a time at the beginning of the year when NFTs seemed like a viable new trend — certainly many established brands thought so. The conversation surrounding non-fungible tokens was practically inescapable if you were a regular user of social media. And then, as quickly as it began, it all started to sink.

The bad PR surrounding NFTs did put a few dents in the side of the Titanic, but the main heft of the iceberg was the community itself — the "NFT bros" as they're now pejoratively called. Effectively the world's worst volunteer sales reps, the sheer and aggressive annoyingness of the NFT fanbase killed the burgeoning technology in its cradle. Are brands still trying to capitalize on NFTs? Yes, of course, and they will as long as there's even a little profitability left in the market. But they're doing it subtly, careful to make sure their NFT venture is a smart move and not a quick, calculated cash grab.

Promotional exclusivity

Another red flag to prevent you from stepping into a false trend is exclusivity. If a platform is trying to drum up mystery and discussion around itself by making membership exclusive, it's because the product is faulty and can only thrive via controversy.

Clubhouse was a briefly popular live-audio platform that heavily marketed itself as invite-only. Of course, acceptance was granted to high-level influencers and trickled out to the privileged few from there. Everyone wanted to get in, but once you did, it was plain to see that the mystery was all that Clubhouse had going for it.

Three major factors contributed to the downfall of Clubhouse

It quickly became filled with the same kind of trend chasers I described above who ran the platform into the ground with "guru" lectures and scammy business opportunities, which gave the space a reputation for being inundated with hustlers.

Many other social media platforms were already beta testing or had their own version of a similar feature, and more than a few instantly created Clubhouse clones that didn't have an invite-only gate.

Podcasts own the audio space and it remains unclear if there's a place or desire for live audio. Combined with the fact that Clubhouse broadcasts didn't archive, meaning that you had to be there at that specific time to join in on the conversation, was the invite-only nature of the app, which meant the number of listeners per live chat was usually pretty slim.

Think about it: does it really make sense to try and launch your platform by severely limiting the number of people who can use it? No, it doesn't. That's why every successful social media site has a general version and a paywalled premium version for power users.

Integrating into a rising platform at peak trend can be a powerful booster for your brand. The problem is that few people know the telltale signs of when a trend just isn't destined to last.

Imagine social media platforms as a bar or restaurant. If you go there and it's filled with sketchy-looking people, it's probably not somewhere that's beneficial to hang around. The same is true on social media — users make all the difference. If the "wrong sort" of people have already infested the waters of an emerging platform, steer clear until the trend fades or the invading forces thin out.

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
What's this?
Content labeled as the Expert Forum is produced and managed by Newsweek Expert Forum, a fee based, invitation only membership community. The opinions expressed in this content do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Newsweek or the Newsweek Expert Forum.