trending topics identification action plan

Trending Topics: A Trend Identification and Action Plan

Developing a Rapid Response Plan to Capitalize on Trending Topics

It’s no secret that being able to identify and respond to trending topics can significantly increase your web traffic, engagement, and SEO. However, doing so requires developing a comprehensive plan, communication between teams internally, and being able to quickly pivot to all-hands-on-deck ‘mini-campaigns’ as opportunities arise.

The following post offers some guidelines to help your nonprofit get started and develop your own rapid response plan.

STEP 1: Identify Trending Topics

Look at social media and Google trends

Oftentimes, a topic will trend on social media first and the search volume will follow. Therefore, it is important that your social media team identifies and communicates relevant topics that are trending to your editorial team (and vice versa + your email marketing team).

Each platform has their own “trending” section. For those that have categories, we recommend checking at least “everything” and those categories that most closely fit your niche.

  • Facebook trending
  • Twitter trends (left-hand side) and Twitter Moments
  • Google Trends: look at relevant subcategories, as well as any keywords or topics to identify recent demand spikes. It could be helpful to compare a search term to another comparable term that you know went viral in the past to predict the possible trajectory of the trend. Learn more about ways to use Google trends in our previous post.
  • BuzzSumo (great product but requires a paid subscription for higher daily limit)
  • Reddit (esp. relevant Subreddits)

Create a Facebook feed and monitor relevant brands / publishers / news and media outlets, for example:

  • Upworthy
  • Buzzfeed News
  • A+
  • ATTN:
  • AJ+

Utilize Google Alerts

Set up Google Alerts for specific topics. We would recommend tracking your brand name, as well as any topics you would like to be on top of. That way, you always know what people are talking about.

Build a Dashboard in Google Analytics

Consider setting up a Google Analytics dashboard that provides you with (real time) reporting on:

  • Which of your content is gaining the most traction
  • Social Media traffic
  • Questions and keywords that people are using to search your site

Here are some sample real-time Google Analytics dashboards. This will help you identify when your traffic spikes, where the spike is coming from.

Set up Google Analytics Alerts

You can set up a Google Analytics alert when your sessions are higher than a certain # (for specific channels or all traffic). This will alert you when you’re traffic is spiking so you can respond and pivot quickly if necessary. Here are the instructions for how to set up a Google Alert.

For example:

  • All traffic -> Sessions -> % increases by more than -> 10% -> same day in the previous week
  • Social traffic -> Sessions -> Greater than -> [# that would be exceptional for your org]

Here’s a great article with a ton more Google Analytics alert ideas.

STEP 2: Content Creation Action Plan for Trending Topics

Once you’ve identified a trend or a topic that is going completely viral, you want to make sure to capitalize on this topic to increase your reach and show thought leadership. These questions will help you decide when to create additional content, and what kind, when to optimize existing content and when not to act:

  1. Why is the topic going viral?
  2. Where is the topic going viral?
  3. Can your brand add value to the conversation?
  4. Do we have existing content that addresses this issue specifically?
  5. Do we have supporting content we can link to?

Why is the topic going viral?

Determine the main reason that the topic is blowing up and think about the underlying concern and additional questions that your audience may have.

For example;
The ’13 Reasons Why’ series on Netflix went viral because it was addressing suicide, which is a highly controversial topic as well as potentially triggering, and the execution of this series triggered and/or worried many people. Questions people could have:

  • What is ’13 Reasons Why’ about?
  • What is the issue with it?
  • What would be a more appropriate way to cover and destigmatize the topic of suicide?
  • Should I watch it? Should I let my kids watch it?
  • When my kid has seen 13 reasons why, how can we talk about it / help them process it?

Once you’ve understood why the topic is going viral, you’ll be better able to respond with content that is the most relevant to this trend and what unique input you can bring to the table that is of particular interest to your audience.

Where is the topic going viral?

Where did the trend originate; for example, was it on a specific social media platform (e.g. Facebook)?
And where is most of the conversation happening now? Are people now searching for this term on Google as well? Not all viral trends will go viral on Google search in the same way.

Once you’ve identified the platforms where the conversation is happening and where you want to join (where your audience is), you can decide on the format for the new content you create. Here are some ideas that fit each medium/platform:

  • Organic search: Create a blog, optimize existing content
  • Social Media:
    • Facebook: post a native video, host a live chat, share a blog link
    • Twitter: host a Twitter chat, share a blog link
    • Pinterest: share an infographic
    • YouTube: post a video, host a live video chat
    • Instagram: host a live video chat, share a video or a relevant image with a compelling caption
  • Email: Share links to any relevant content, announce live chats

No matter the format, it should always specifically address the issue at hand (the reason it went viral and the concerns your audience will have).

Can your brand add value to the conversation?

Content for the sake of content or just to be “relevant” is not what this is about. You have your own unique voice and your own level of expertise. What does your brand have to offer in this conversation? Show some thought leadership and provide your audience with what they specifically may be interested in.

Don’t talk about Fake News because everyone is talking about Fake News. When your audience is parents; talk about how fake new news affects kids and how to help kids identify fake news. When your audience is teachers; provide them with information for a good and interesting lesson plan around the topic, so that students will be better able to identify good news sources.

Do we have existing content that addresses this issue specifically?

If yes; optimize for organic search and use this; check how people are talking about this issue and use similar language

If there is potential to cover the issue in more depth in a separate piece, you could create a new blog and link back to any relevant content you already have.

Do we have supporting content that we could link to?

Anything that could help your audience further navigate this topic better. This doesn’t have to be directly talking about the trend but any content that could be helpful. For example, when the Sarahah app went viral, one of the concerns was the potential for cyberbullying. If you have any content about cyberbullying that could help concerned parents better navigate this trend, link to that.

We hope this will help you identify relevant trending topics and set up some strategies for responding to the next viral sensation in a way that resonates with your audience.

Looking for strategic guidance in leveraging viral trends to amplify your organization’s brand and voice? Get in touch! We’d love to help.


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