According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, 62% of Americans get their news from social media, with Facebook taking the lead in terms of delivery and reach.

Reasons for this are myriad. For starters, social media is vastly quicker than most news outlets. Twitter breaks news at a previously impossible rate, with field reports delivered instantly at major events and incidents. Facebook is a little slower and an aggregation of many different public posts. This is interesting because with Facebook, perception of the news story is filtered almost completely through posting about it rather than the story itself. Take the recent news story about Harambe the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo—reactions to the story became the story. This is all thanks to social media.

Whatever your feelings about news being delivered in the same method as photos of someone’s dinner, you can use this for your business. But, and this is a necessary but, you have to do it right.

 1.    Make sure you know what you’re getting into.

A couple years ago, a hashtag #WhyIStayed started trending on Twitter. DiGiorno saw this and decided to jump in with this fun little tweet.



And people were horrified. Because this wasn’t a fun little hashtag. This was a hashtag devoted to domestic violence and abuse. In another equally cringe-worthy incident, Epicurious saw Boston trending on Twitter and posted some New England-friendly recipes. Except—and you see where this is going—this was the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. So, please, read the hashtag before you jump in.


2. Be sensitive.

Don’t do what AT&T did and use 9/11 to sell a phone. Capitalizing on national tragedies can only reflect poorly on you.


3. Stick to something that makes sense for your business or brand.

This isn’t as limiting as you might think. Here’s what’s trending as I write this:




The Pantone hue story could be used by anyone in design—you could talk about how you can make the ugliest color beautiful. A celebrity couple having a baby is always a good starting point for childcare or insurance. If you can naturally tie it to your business, go for it. But don’t try to fit a square peg in a round trending topic. Stick with what you know.

I’d recommend avoiding getting in on anyone dying, or political conversations you don’t necessarily want to start.

Twitter makes this a bit easier. Topics are broader and it can be easier to insert yourself organically into conversations. Some topics trending right now include #ThankfulThursday, #BestAdviceFromMyLawyer, and #Hamilton. Trust me, Hamilton references can work with any topic. How lucky we are to be alive right now.

Get out there in social land and join some conversations. Just make sure you follow these tips to avoid big brand fails.