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Reactivity on Social

Social Media Director, Shaunni Howard, shares her top tips for reactivity on social, exploring the importance of key calendar moments, tapping into popular culture and utilising social listening tools to help keep your finger on the pulse.

Reactive Content

Shaunni Howard

27 Jun 2022

In a nut-shell, reactivity is any and all content that sits outside of your planned social calendar and campaigns. It’s an umbrella term which typically encompasses quickly turned-around topical content, but it can also include well-thought-out and more complex creative. You can be reactive on most key social platforms but reactive success is most prevalent on Twitter and TikTok.

Reactivity is the epitome of social-first content; it’s relevant, disruptive and impactful. You'll engage your existing audience and there's huge potential to organically reach new eyes due to the viral shareability of reactive content.

Although there is crossover, It’s important to caveat that reactivity and trending content aren’t interchangeable terms, so let’s dive into the definitions just to be clear:

Reactivity doesn’t always mean engaging in something trending but it can also include trending topics. For example - there could be a big moment suitable for your specific brand to respond / engage to - but it may not be a wider trend. Perhaps a one-off tweet or user-generated TikTok relating specifically to your brand or industry has gone viral, engaging with it would be classified as a reactive moment, however the content isn’t trend worthy. For something to be classified as a trend, it needs to be something that is snowballing, copied and built on in a repetitive manner over a short amount of time.

Reactive content in itself can be strategic, but primarily it’s quick, simple and impactful - which is what makes it fun both to create and consume. Strong reactive content has the ability to transcend into meme culture and also set industry standards. Just look at American burger joint, Wendy’s! The fast food chain has become known for their quick-witted and well considered reactive community engagement strategy. Their sharp-tongue and ‘beef’ (pun intended) with their customers and other brands alike has shaped the way the food industry behaves on social media.

Not every brand will be quite as reactive and conversational as Wendy’s, but there is absolutely a place for brands of all sectors and sizes in the world of reactivity. A helpful place to start is looking at our reactivity framework, it consists of four segments: timing, relevance, add value and sense check. Tick all four of these off and you’re good to go!

The Reactivity Framework

1. Timing
Timing is the first step to consider when it comes to reactivity. In the fast paced world of social media, a trend can live and die in the blink of an eye. You have to have your finger on the pulse in order to spot a trend before it ‘blows up’. So let’s break down the life cycle of a trend - the earlier you join in on a trend, the higher the value you add. And brutally, the best timing for this is often within the first few hours. After the first few days, it begins to feel “done”, and before you know it’s been written off when it reaches mainstream media.

2. Relevance
Next up is relevance; a relevance continuum will help you figure out whether you want your content to be relevant to your brand or to your audience. On one end, you can join in on a trend by applying your brand/product/service to it. For example, this one with cultbeauty using the Kim Kardashian met gala meme where cultbeauty talks about wanting to buy new skincare when you already have loads of unopened ones; it alludes to a product they sell whilst also mentioning a truth that resonates with their audience.

On the other end of the continuum, you have brands who are comfortable enough to post about almost anything where they use their platform as a meme account. For example, Klarna posted about not being old enough to get sweets at halloween has absolutely nothing to do with Klarna’s services but as they have a cult following, this style works because it's the kind of content their audience likes to consume on their feeds.

Our team combined the two approaches and met in the middle for clearpay, where the content didn’t directly mention clearpay itself but it still alluded to shopping in general and remained in the middle and relatable to audience shopping habits.

3. Add Value
Before implementing a reactive content strategy, brands should ask themselves a few questions - what does your audience interact with you for? Self-deprecation? Put-downs? Wholesome humour? Do you want to add a little bit of value to a large group of people, far beyond your audience, or do you want to focus on the things that truly matter to your subculture?

Always keep the brand values and objectives top of mind and have conviction in your approach. You want a new, fresh angle that is clearly aligned to your company, so don’t just jump on every and any bandwagon – assess what your community wants and give them what they need.

4. Sense check
Always be aware of the environment you’re posting in - do your homework around anything problematic and imagine the worst way someone could interpret your content. Anticipate negative interpretation and prepare for this, diverse voices in the room help to minimise risk in this instance.

So you’ve got the framework down and you’re ready to enter into the realms of reactivity? Here are some of our practical ‘how-to’ tips!

TIP ONE: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Anticipate being reactive around key calendar moments. We know this almost sounds counter-intuitive but planned reactivity can absolutely work to your advantage. There are key cultural and social moments every year that you can forward plan to an extent. Think about Bake Off, Love Island, the Super Bowl, a royal wedding, award seasons, and so on! A great example; Nando’s producing their own version of ‘Spotify wrapped’ on the same day the streaming service launched and a more recent example; Lidl’s response to the Platinum Jubilee.

TIP TWO: Add value appropriately

Tap into popular culture in an authentic way and engage when it feels relevant for your brand. Remember a few months ago when Wordle popped up all over your feed, many brands inserted themselves into the cultural conversations by putting their own spin on the game, adding value to the audience's online experience beyond the purchase of a product or service. Take a look at the following examples, including our team’s own take on Wordle for Guinness:

TIP THREE: Stay on the ball and interact accordingly

Use social listening to identify indirect opportunities for you to join a conversation or build your own content off UGC. Here and here are two examples of successful user-based reactive content we produced for our client, Nando’s. These TikTok’s achieved 2.6 million views and an engaged audience for an organic piece of content for the brand.

TIP FOUR: Trend jack

Twitter and TikTok thrive on trends and users replicating one another. Pay attention to emerging trends and act quickly! Here are a few examples of trends and brands doing this below (likely already outdated by the time you read this because, as mentioned, timing is everything!)

The below popular trend of the Pope holding a ‘special’ item was very popular a few months ago, but see Oreo’s example of a successful ‘brand-safe’ interpretation - which sees them still participate in the reactivity but also omits the use of religious imagery.


Or there's the 'How It Started' meme.


Or the 'Imagine Your Card Declines' meme.

Reactivity is all well and good but are there any risks?

Reactivity is exciting and the pay-off can be huge, but brands can be apprehensive to get involved. It’s important to make sure it’s your sport to play in. Reactive community management often happens in real-time, which means that having a clear understanding of your tone of voice as well as guidelines on what you can/cannot say is crucial. From legal regulations, to just how humorous your brand is open to being, especially with ‘banter’; there’s always the risk that you could offend somebody. In short, it’s important to know how far you’re willing to go, how to deal with it if it backfires, and how to move on from it!

Fancy a hand navigating your way through reactivity on social?

Reach out to [email protected] to start up a conversation with one of our social specialists.