Social Media

Top Reaction Gifs for the format’s 30th Anniversary

30th anniversary of the GIF

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the GIF this week, Facebook has added a GIF button directly to the comment bar – making it easier than ever to interact visually on the platform. It’s hard to deny the impact that GIFs have had in recent years on modern social media culture, no matter what side of the pronunciation debate you stand on (personally, I think it’s JIF, like the peanut butter). Take a look at a few facts that make GIFs so powerful for social sharing:

 

30th anniversary of the GIF

Need a few GIFs to get your sharing started? Here’s some of our favorites:

 

Peggy from Mad Men

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Jimmy Fallon Happy Dance

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Captain Picard Facepalm

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

JACK NICHOLSON WOAH

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

High Five

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Raven Symone

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Jennifer Lawrence OK

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Simpsons MWUAH

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Computer Kid

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Kermit at Work

30th anniversary of the GIF

The Difficult Relationship Between Brands & YouTube Creators

youtube advertising

Every day, YouTube users watch nearly 5 billion videos. Since its inception in 2005, YouTube has become a culture-shaping video mecca that has created a new category of “celebrity.” Brands have jumped into the YouTube pool with both feet, taking advantage of those 5 billion daily views with ad buys on the videos of popular YouTube Creators and branded content of their own. From gaming “Let’s Plays” to beauty tutorials to snarky commentary on politics to the latest viral meme, influencers are creating content that brands want to be a part of. And YouTube creators have made lucrative careers from the brands’ ad dollars: in 2016, the highest earning personality was PewDiePie, who brought in $15 million last year.

But in 2017, all has not been well in the YouTube land. Due to several controversies (including one surrounding the aforementioned PewDiePie), the relationship between advertisers and creators (and the relationship between both of those parties and YouTube itself) has become strained. The issues could have far-reaching implications for net neutrality, influencer marketing, and the future of video on social media. Both creators and brands need each other to win the YouTube game, but struggle to define who is truly in charge.

StockSnap_1J6AHTQEPH

The “Adpocalypse:” Creators need brands

In March of this year, YouTube and parent company Google had a full blown crisis on their hands: major brands were pulling their advertising due to Google’s inability to ensure that their ads didn’t end up playing in front of racist and offensive content. However, the issue wasn’t as cut -and-dry as advertisers wanted it to be; part of the issue is how Google can define and label offensive content.

Some videos are obviously offensive – those that contain extreme violence, gore, harassment, and blatant racist content are videos that advertisers (and probably the general public) don’t want to see monetized. However, in YouTube’s efforts to soothe brands’ fears, some of their most popular creators suddenly found their ad revenue tanking. Creators complained that the new “hate speech” algorithm was blocking their content unfairly, and taking video titles and content out of context. Several also pointed out that while their videos were being demonetized for things like violent content in a video game or “jokes” they said were taken out of context, the YouTube channels of news outlets that often show violent imagery and music videos with overtly sexual content still had ads attached.

YouTube creators are most successful when they create and share content with authenticity and connection to their audience. Sometimes, this includes content that isn’t “PG-13,” and brands may not want their logo and name associated with it. Staying true to their audience can come at a cost for creators, especially those who rely on YouTube for their livelihood.

youtube

Cutting the cable cord: Brand need creators

According to a survey in 2016, younger generations watch 2.5 time more internet video than cable TV. In fact, YouTube is the most viewed platform among this demographic – also beating out Netflix, Facebook, and Hulu. Millennials and Generation Z are spending their time with their favorite influencers on YouTube, who are more likely to personally connect with them on social media than an A-list celebrity in the newest show on AMC. They trust these YouTube creators because they can connect with them on a personal level.

As Generation Z comes of age and begins wielding more purchasing power, brands are realizing they need to reach these consumers where they live. Consumers aren’t seeking out brands anymore, and they don’t like traditional advertising. Longer ads on YouTube often come with the option to skip them, but most users will still see a few seconds of an ad before skipping it to get to their video. A well-made ad can still make an impact in those few seconds, and potentially be seen by millions of users when played in front of videos by YouTube’s most popular personalities.

For brands looking to build an even stronger connection, product placements are alive and well on YouTube. Influencer partnerships can take time to build, and creators are often picky about the brands they work with – the products need to be authentic to their persona on YouTube. Not every popular YouTuber is a fit for this type of promotion, either. Those who don’t focus lifestyle content may not have audiences that expect or even accept product promotion.

Companies who pull regular advertising due to concerns about the content on YouTube can run into a new challenge as well if they want to work with these influencers directly. Creators affected by a lack of ad revenue due to brands pulling their campaigns might not be inclined to partner with brands in other capacities – why would they support the brands that don’t support the platform their career is based on? If ad revenues continue to dip or stay stagnant, many popular creators will be seeking greener pastures, and diversifying their careers. There may not be creators for brands to partner with at all in the future.

The balance

Google and YouTube have the difficult task of balancing the authenticity and creativity that made YouTube so popular with the need to assure brands that their reputation isn’t at risk by purchasing ad space. The second half of 2017 will likely define YouTube’s future, as well as the future of influencer relations in marketing. The current situation is sticky – all three parties (creators, brands, and YouTube) need each other, but also need to put their own interests first. Internet video is still a bit Wild West – and YouTube will have to find a way to balance the creators’ desire to keep it that way and brands’ desire to reign it in.

 

Customer Service on Snapchat

snapchat customer service

In its short history, Snapchat has grown from a novelty app to a social media platform in which brands are eager to pioneer new styles of social media campaigns. From branded lens and geofilters, to influencer “story takeovers” and specialized in-app ads, there’s a multitude of ways for brands to utilize Snapchat. Users on Snapchat tend to be digital natives, younger and turned off by traditional advertising. They expect personal connections from the brands they love and buy from. Snapchat is a natural platform for these connections, and some brands are taking it to the next level by using the app as a customer service tool.

Brands have already discovered that Twitter makes a great customer service tool and allows for quick responses – but it doesn’t allow for voice or face-to-face conversations. Early adopters of Snapchat are discovering that the platform offers the direct connection of Twitter, with the added benefit of video to help solve customer issues, and puts a friendly face on customer service. Here are three ways brands are elevating customer experience through Snapchat.

customer service

Troubleshoot customer service problems with video

For certain consumer and B2B brands, troubleshooting product issues can be difficult over the phone. But busy consumers often don’t have time to come back into the shop, ship the product back, or make an appointment to have their defective product looked at. Forward-thinking companies like iOgrapher are experimenting with applying Snapchat’s convenient video messaging to their troubleshooting process. Customers with concerns can make a short Snapchat video describing the problem and send it directly to the business’ account. This is convenient for both customer and business: The consumer gets a quick, easy way to send in a “support ticket,” and the business gets a physical look at what the problem is, rather than trying to decipher the issue over email or phone. While this might be difficult for one customer service rep to manage for large corporations (and the multitude of customer issues they respond to daily), small to mid-size startups and businesses can use the platform as a free tool to connect to consumers where they are and respond in a more personal way.

Phone calls without a call center

Occasionally, customers don’t need (or want) to use a video to discuss the challenges they’re having with a product – a phone call can suffice. But some call center systems can be frustrating to deal with, and no one enjoys listening to hold music for 20-30 minutes while they wait to speak to an actual human. Using Snapchat’s phone call feature, brands can connect with customers on an app they’re already spending time on. Brands need to connect with their audiences where they “live” – and that probably isn’t on an automated phone system.

Tutorials and guides

Particularly with beauty, food and health products, consumers love to see real people using and explaining products before they make a purchase. Whether it’s showcasing the variety of ways to use a hairstyling product or sharing a recipe using a new food item, brands can build goodwill by helping their customers learn how to use what they sell more efficiently. Snapchat is a perfect platform for tutorial videos. Brands can use their own staff or partner with popular influencers and offer tutorial videos for their followers. When advertised beforehand on other social platforms, brands can ensure an audience for their Snapchat story (which will only stay live for 24 hours).

 

Though still in its early stages (and facing strong competition from Instagram’s Stories), Snapchat is still growing in popularity, especially among the younger age set. Brands who jump in now will be ahead of many companies, and will be able to experiment and pave the way in this new field of customer service. Customers will continue to demand personal, authentic connections, and brands that adapt to these needs will only benefit.

Celebrity Endorsements: The Risk for Brands

celebrity endsorement

Celebrity endorsements have been used by brands since the 1760s, when a savvy pottery and chinaware company used endorsements from royalty to promote their products.  In more recent decades, celebrity endorsement has become a staple for many large brands, like Michael Jordan’s partnership with Nike. As social media has grown into a part of everyday life, the celebrity endorsement has adapted along with the digital world. With this shift has come new ways for brands and the influencers they partner with to connect with their audiences – and new ways for their influencers to crash, burn, and create a crisis.

Social media is all about personal connections, and it allows celebrities a chance to offer a sneak peek into their real life (or at least the sanitized version of their real life). It helps their fans relate to them in ways that regular advertising can’t, and creates a golden opportunity for brands. Brand endorsements, when presented through the lens of a celebrity’s personal, authentic recommendation on their personal social media channels can be a powerful form of marketing. But with this power comes the risk for it to fail on an epic scale when transparency and authenticity aren’t a key focus.

Fyre Festival’s lack of transparency

In April, the “luxurious” Fyre Festival made history – but not for the reasons they’d hoped. The “festival” basically didn’t even exist, and the exceptional music, food, and fun that their celebrity brand influencers promised were nowhere to be found. As the word spread, the organizers weren’t only faced with the obvious issue of not delivering the promised product – all but one of their hired influencers conveniently forgot to mention that their social media posts were sponsored.

While a brand and influencer may worry that tagging their sponsored post as the ad it is could harm the audience’s perception, the opposite is often true. Social media users don’t like to be lied to, and are still receptive to influencer content even when it’s clearly called out. Though the festival organize claim to be trying again next year, the damage caused by the lack of transparency by their influencers is already done – and the pending lawsuits for FTC violations aren’t helping matters.

“Bow Wow’s” lack of authenticity

While rapper Shad Moss (also known as Lil Bow Wow) wasn’t promoting a brand when he posted on Instagram about the flight he was taking to NYC via private jet, brands he’s worked with in the past could be at risk thanks to the reveal that he was lying.

Moss was indeed on a flight to NYC, but it wasn’t via private jet. Unfortunately for him, a fan of his noticed him on the flight, and noticed the post he’d made – and called him out on Snapchat.

The internet soon piled on to make fun of Moss’ photo with the #BowWowChallenge. There might not be a ton of animosity toward the rapper for fudging the truth, but it’s hurt his credibility, and could hurt the brands he partners with in the future.

The solution: micro-influencers

So, how can brands still get the benefit of social media influence, and collapsing on a large scale when their celebrity partner slips up? There’s three keys to consider:

  • Insist on transparency. All sponsored content must be tagged as such, no exceptions.
  • Carefully vet the influencers chosen – does their history match your brand values?
  • Consider micro-influencers instead.

Micro-influencers don’t have the millions of followers that some celebrities do, but this could actually be a plus for brands. They’re able to connect with their fans even more closely, and are likely to hold transparency and authenticity in high regard because of this. Money isn’t the only thing they’re concerned about – they also vet the brands the work with to ensure that the partnership is a match for their image too. And, if they do have an unfortunate flub, it’s probably not going to be on the same scale that an A or B list celebrity would. Brands should consider their influencers close partners, and require that they uphold the brand’s values – and influencers should do the same for the companies they work with.

Influencer Marketing for Small Businesses

influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is a priority for brands in 2017. In 2016, influencers emerged as a powerhouse for brands looking to reach millennials in the personalized, authentic way that they desire. Celebrity endorsements have always been a tool for marketers with the right budget, but influencer marketing takes this concept to the next level. It combines star power with the more casual endorsement you get from word of mouth – social media influencers are typically much more connected to and familiar with their fans than A-list celebrities are. While some social media stars command big pay checks from the huge brands they work with, there are thousands of micro-influencers that are more easily accessible to small businesses with limited budgets.

Influencers with millions of followers aren’t right for every brand. Micro-influencers in specific industries are not only more affordable for smaller businesses, they’re more likely to reach the people who will become actual customers. Micro-influencers are often cheaper for businesses to work with, and may even do partnerships for free products or services. In exchange, they can offer direct, personal connections with consumers businesses may struggle to reach efficiently otherwise. Their reviews of products are much more authentic than major influencers with millions of followers that they definitely can’t connect with individually.

How to Find Micro-Influencers

You can find influencers who would be a great fit for your business in a variety of ways, ranging from free options to purchasing tools built for this purpose.

  • Start with your own followers: Take a look through your own fans on social media. For followers who have a few thousand followers of their own, and are already fans of your business, a partnership with your brand could be a natural choice for them.
  • Connect with local bloggers: Google is your friend here – search for popular local bloggers in your area. If their content is a fit, check out how they prefer to connect.
  • Hashtags: On Instagram and Twitter, browse popular hashtags related to your brand’s products. Chances are, some of the top tweets come from influencers in these topics.
  • Buy a tool to help: Buy a subscription to a service like Klear to get a more in-depth look at who holds influence in your industry.

 

What to Expect

When working with influencers, it’s important to pursue an authentic, mutually beneficial relationship. Treat influencers with respect, and they’ll be more open to working with you. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Research how the influencer prefers to be contacted, and respect what types of partnerships they’re willing to do.
  • Do your due diligence and research the influencer’s history and past brand sponsorships. This can help avoid a crisis for your brand later.
  • Plan to build a relationship over time. Influencers may not be open to a partnership right away, even if you’re willing to pay. They need to get to know your business first, and understand if it works with their brand.
  • Make sure all posts from your influencer clearly state their relationship to your brand – transparency pays off with your audience and avoids legal issues.
  • Ideally, plan for a long-term relationship and not a one-off sponsorship.

Dark Social: Digital Word of Mouth

Cellars

“Dark social” isn’t as malicious as it sounds. The term was coined by Alexis Madrigal in an article for The Atlantic in 2012 to describe the sharing of information in emails and instant messengers – sharing that existed long before social media platforms were popular. Social media ROI is getting easier to measure, but dark social is more difficult. And it accounts for a huge portion of the referrals your website is probably getting.

When looking through your Google Analytics, you probably notice a large chunk of the referrals are listed in the “direct traffic” category. These hits can come from a variety of behind-the-scenes sources; a link shared through text, email, native mobile apps (like Facebook’s), messengers, Slack messages, Snapchat, and someone using a secure HTTPS browser all fall in this bucket. It’s word of mouth on the internet, but not the kind you can track easily through Facebook Insights.

The Struggle for Social Media Strategists

While it’s great to have so many avenues for your content to be shared, dark social adds to the struggle for social media teams in proving the value of what they do. If you can’t specifically show that these direct traffic hits are from people copying and sharing a link you put on Facebook, it’s tough to show true ROI. Social media marketers are under a lot of pressure to show concrete metrics, which is sometimes next to impossible. There’s no real way to say “yes, all of these direct traffic hits were from text messages sent in this market.”

texting

Dark social can also make optimizing content tough. Without knowing how the content is being shared specifically, marketers can’t design it for those platforms. These shares are likely hitting demographics that may not be on other social channels, like the 55 and older age group. When you can’t pin down the audience and the channel, it’s difficult to be strategic.

Shining the Light on Dark Social

So, what can PR pros and marketers do about dark social? Here’s a few things to focus on to get a better handle on this type of sharing:

  • Use Google Analytics’ customer URL builder. This can help with proving that your social sharing is driving dark social communication, and which posts are bringing in the most referrals. No matter where the link is clicked from, you’ll be able to see that it was that specific link you created for your latest Facebook post that brought visitors to the website.

 

google analytics

  • Invest in a tool made for dark social tracking, like st by Radium One.
  • Make shareable content a priority. Even when it’s hard to track, dark social is still sharing of your content. Make sure your social posts are shareable – find the emotional connection, keep text short, and include visuals whenever possible. You might not be able to optimize it for a Snapchat message, but you can still focus on creating content that resonates with your audience, no matter where they are.

How to tie your social media strategy to your SEO

social media and seo

Public relations and marketing professionals have learned over the last few years that they can’t exist in silos and get exceptional results for their brands. Integrated strategies are vital for success. PR and marketing live in different sandboxes, but they have to learn how to play well together. This is particularly clear with the relationship between social media and SEO. These two areas can and do exist separately, but when paired together can produce stronger results for both teams.

Both social media and SEO are part of a long-term strategy. You might not get a million followers or a hundred new links within a month, but with the right foundation, these strategies can bolster your brand reputation and bring in new customers and leads. Together, these two tools can expand and strengthen the “touch points” where your customer interacts with your brand. With enough “touches” over time, you can create dedicated and repeat customers. Here are three tips for tying your social media strategy to your SEO plan.

Choose the right platforms, get them on brand, and update regularly

You don’t have to be on every single social media platform, but the ones you have add links to your online presence. Choose the ones that are right for your brand and focus on doing those platforms well. Make sure your content is planned out and integrated into your overall communications strategy. Update each platform regularly and with content targeted to your specific audiences on each channel. Facebook is different than LinkedIn, and LinkedIn is different than Pinterest, so be sure to craft and fine tune content for each. Be sure that the branding, logos, and overall tone of voice match across each platform. When someone Googles your company, they may click the Facebook link rather than your website link; be sure they get the same story and message (just honed for Facebook etiquette) that they would from your homepage.

Create shareable and engaging content

With social media, crafting and posting your content is step one. Step two is getting engagement, shares, and mentions from your followers – and in turn, boosted SEO results. The more people publicly share your content, the more links and mentions are available for your brand, which helps boost your reputation with search engines. To get your followers to share your content, it needs to be right for the platform, relatable, and well crafted. Sharing content on social media as an individual is often an endorsement of the thoughts and ideas within – it has to be great for your followers to associate with it. Posts that are short and succinct and include a photo or video are more shareable. It also helps if your content is tied into current social media and pop culture trends that are relevant to your brand.

Use your keywords on social

Though there have been changes in the way SEO works, a good portion of it comes back to the keywords you want to be tied to and optimizing your content with these keywords. This is also true on social media; you want your posts to be searchable by the keywords your brand is focusing on. Once you have a solid idea of the keywords your SEO campaign is targeting, find authentic ways to work them in to your social media content. This is particularly helpful on Pinterest and YouTube, where users are often searching for new content by keywords. It can also work on Facebook and Twitter, especially if your pages are well done and have a good reputation with search engines.

Download our Social Analytics POV

free social analytics

“Today, knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” – Peter Drucker

More than ever, public relations professionals are working to quantify PR’s value for their clients. This can be difficult for a number of public relations tactics, but social media is notoriously hard to pin down in terms of ROI. Executives and business owners have been told their business needs to be on social media, but without the hard numbers to back the “why,” many still aren’t on board with investing time and manpower into social. Social analytics tools exist that provide in-depth data for social channels, but these are often pricey, prohibiting smaller PR agencies and small businesses from using them.

Thankfully, there’s still hope for those who have tight budgets or are overwhelmed by the idea of tackling Google Analytics. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all provide free, built-in analytics that offer a wealth of information. For businesses on these platforms, these free tools can tell you what’s working, who your audience is, and help you build stronger content for social. The key is knowing which numbers are important.

We’ve created a new, downloadable white paper covering our perspective on free social analytics to help you better understand how to use these tools strategically. Meaningful Measurement: The Social Media Data You’re Underutilizing— and How to Put it to Work for Free includes guides through Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest’s free analytics. Key stats on each channel are highlighted, are well as which numbers aren’t important.

 A few highlights:

  • Discover why page “likes” on Facebook don’t really matter
  • Learn how to understand the impressions stats on Twitter
  • Explore your Pinterest audience demographics in-depth

 

Download the full POV here, and start turning your social media stats into knowledge: http://awordsmithcomm.com/about-us/thought-leadership/

Let it go: don’t worry about control on social media

brand voice social media

Brands put a lot of work into fine tuning their voice, and can understandably be protective of their image. Companies want their audience to talk about them a certain way, and marketing, advertising, and public relations all work together in the hopes of achieving positive buzz and brand loyalty. However, brands often have trouble getting their social media platforms to “play nice” and stay in control. The conversation on social media is tough to control, but brands should embrace this fact rather than fear it.

Social media channels don’t function the same way an advertising piece does, where the content is tightly controlled and distributed. You can put in hours of work into a piece of content, just to have it turn into an unflattering, viral meme. Social media moves quickly, and brands can struggle to keep up. However, companies shouldn’t bail on social media entirely or resort to a corporate, sterile voice on these platforms. Instead, brands should jump into the deep end with both feet and utilize social media platforms for what they are – customer experience tools, not a brand megaphone.

Plan, and then let it go

Social media still requires planning and knowing your brand voice inside and out before starting to post. Companies should make sure their brand voice and image is unified across all the channels they’ll be using, and have a set of guidelines in place for tone and style for whoever will be posting on their behalf. Know what your brand would say and would never dream of saying before beginning. Make sure posts are edited before going live.

Once the content is out there, it’s in the hands of your audience. Brands must be ready to “let it go” to a certain extent after this point, as the engagement that happens may not be what you expect. Whatever the response is, take it and run with it rather than try to change it. It’s bad practice to delete negative comments; instead, use them as a customer service opportunity (or a humor opportunity, if it’s right for your brand and the complaint being made). Engage with the positive responses too, and shine a spotlight on the users responding. In some cases, you can even take advantage of user generated content in response to what you post. It might not be the quality or style your marketing department would have chosen, but it makes an authentic connection with your audience, something an ad rarely does.

Choose transparency over control

The days of “no comment” in response to a crisis are long gone thanks to social media. Social media users have no tolerance for slow responses, no response, or robotic corporate responses. When a brand crisis arises, it will be talked about on social media. No matter how appealing it can be to state “no response” or stay quiet until you’ve had ample time to come up with a polished statement, this is rarely the right choice.

While having a few days to think and present a response spears to give a company the chance to get a handle on the situation, they’re losing valuable time with an audience that is already discussing it. Transparency is far more important than an illusion of control on social media. Sometimes it’s even fine for a company to say “we’re aware, and we’re taking some time to collect our thoughts” rather than avoid posting for a few days and then attempt to look like they were always in control. Honesty with your audience (and even admitting you were blindsided) can go a long way with social media users.

Social media is a PR tool, not a marketing one

Marketing and public relations departments must work together to achieve success for the brand, and social media is no different. However, given the inherent lack of control with social media, PR professionals are better positioned to drive these efforts. Public relations is a two-way conversation, as is social media. Marketing is a brand megaphone; great in certain circumstances, but not really a fit for social media. Social media users have an extremely low tolerance for ads, and have high expectations for authentic communication from the brands they follow.

Public relations should work with marketing to ensure that the brand voice on social media is up to par, but marketing should be comfortable with PR leading social and communicating with their audience without several rounds of content approval. Conversations on social happen at the speed of light, and the key to success on these channels is listening and jumping in quickly. When a brand remembers that social is more about their audience than their company, they’ll be able to stay on top of conversations while getting comfortable with letting go of control. The rewards of social media can be numerous when brands let go – for both companies and their audience.

#ThisHappened – 2016 in Twitter & YouTube

twitter

Major social media platforms are truly a global community. If the Twitter Year in Review and YouTube’s 2016 Rewind video are any indication, this community connects on big issues like social change, elections, and human rights – but also undeniably fun carpool karaoke videos. 2016 has also shown just how powerful brands can be on social media, and that there’s right and wrong ways to create or jump on digital trends.

Twitter’s top hashtag this year was #Rio2016. Even in digital form, humans enjoy coming together for a common cause, and the friendly, global competition is always a time for us to consider how much we have in common with our neighbors around the world. #BlackLivesMatter was also among the top ten hashtags this year, along with #Election2016 and #Brexit. While all of these hashtags certainly had positive and negative tweets, their popularity shows that Twitter isn’t just a time-waster. The third most re-tweeted post this year came from Hilary Clinton’s account during her election concession speech. Social media channels continue to be a place where important discussions happen, and information on major events is distributed.

The top hashtags highlight other topics social users like to connect on, including a big focus on entertainment. Number ten was #GameofThrones, where multitudes of the show’s avid fans theorized and commiserated together (often accompanied with #HoldtheDoor and a crying emoji). #RIP was a trending hashtag several times this year as the world mourned the loss of several beloved celebrities including Prince, David Bowie, and Muhammad Ali. The #Oscars was a popular event on social, and an example of brands falling over themselves to jump on a trending hashtag to boost impressions without putting enough thought into their content. Total Beauty, a fashion site, was one of the worst offenders when they misidentified Whoopi Goldberg as Oprah in a tweet during the red carpet pre-show.

Despite slip ups, brands in 2016 saw the value of reaching out to the social media community and connecting with them where they “live.” Brands are the most dominant “community” on YouTube according to The Verge, and produced most of the platform’s top videos this year. Some of the most viewed videos mirror the Twitter trends – there’s Donald Trump’s interview on John Oliver tonight and a pre-Olympics video by Nike featuring some of soccer’s biggest stars. But the entertainment category wins out on YouTube, with Adele’s carpool karaoke version of “Hello” racking up an amazing 135 million views. The YouTube Rewind video references many of the similarly goofy viral videos that were popular this year.

So, what can brands learn from this? First and foremost, companies need to be very careful about using trending hashtags. Plenty of brands could have a good tie in to #Rio2016, but few if any would have an even remotely appropriate reason to use the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. Social media is often a place for silliness, but serious conversations are happening on these platforms that most brands should shy away from.

Second, “virality” isn’t a strategy. Some of this year’s trends make sense, and some don’t. There’s not one type of content that rules on YouTube. Although none of his videos were the top ten most viewed, PewDiePie was the highest paid YouTuber this year, bringing in $15 million from his video gameplay channel. His content wasn’t always the most viral, but it brings in money. Brands shooting to be a viral sensation will likely be disappointed.

Lastly, social media users love cat videos, but they also highly value authenticity. We’re facing what might be called a “post-truth” world, and the digital community wants to be engaged with in an authentic, personalized manner more than ever. Every trend isn’t right for every brand, but there are ways companies can join the conversations in a realistic an appropriate manner. It takes a bit of research and understanding that social media is a powerful tool, but the rewards can be much longer lasting than those from a one-time viral video.