How to Engage in Cultural Conversation as a Brand

In today’s digital world, many cultural events — positive or negative — quickly become topics online. In fact, 73 percent of consumers say that major news finds them even when they’re not looking for it, according to MediaPost.

You may be interested in joining this type of cultural conversation on social media or your blog to increase brand awareness for your business. However, there are a number of best practices you should follow when participating in potentially controversial conversations. Otherwise, you may risk alienating some of your fans and bringing negative attention to your brand.

Finding relevant cultural conversations

The first step in joining a cultural conversation is to figure out what topics your fans are passionate about and what conversations they’re engaging in. These online discussions may center around pop culture topics like TV shows, movies, or books, or they might be based on more serious topics like world events or politics.

As suggested above, finding trending conversations can be as simple as seeing what news finds you naturally. According to MediaPost, 88 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds say a topic is getting big when “it lights up everywhere on the internet.”

If there aren’t any news stories naturally coming to your attention, there are also tools you can use to find trending topics online. For instance, Google Trends provides a list of the most popular daily searches, and you can narrow down the lists to what’s popular in each country. There are also paid tools like BuzzSumo that allow you to find the topics that have the highest numbers of social shares.

Best practices to follow as a brand

There are certain rules that businesses should follow when engaging in cultural conversations, especially ones that have potential to be controversial.

1. Choose the right platform

Many people participate in online discussions about popular topics, and if you want your brand’s message to be heard, it’s important to use the right platform.

Net Imperative explains that you’ll want to find the social channel where the bulk of the discussion is taking place, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or somewhere else. Twitter is often the go-to platform for live updates on TV shows, while Reddit is home to a lot of political commentary.

2. Stay true to your brand

It can be tempting to jump into cultural conversations just because everyone is talking about them, but the “bandwagon” mentality often gets brands into sticky situations. RAPP provides the example of the poorly received Pepsi ad starring Kendall Jenner, where she seemingly solved racial tensions with soda. For this reason, it’s often better to stick to topics that are within your niche and are relevant to your brand and its customers.

You’ll also want to maintain consistent messaging. If your brand is known for its fun, tongue-in-cheek tone, it may not be the best idea to switch gears and provide social commentary. You don’t want to make light of a serious situation, and it’s important to stay true to your brand in order to show fans who you are and what you stand for.

3. Get ahead of conversations

Once you’re comfortable participating in these types of online discussions, you may want to try facilitating your own cultural conversation. If there’s a topic in your industry that you feel is worth talking about, try planning a marketing campaign that could spark a social conversation with your followers.

Taking part in cultural conversations can seem daunting at first because of the high stakes involved. But if you follow these guidelines, you’ll help protect your brand and may find yourself becoming part of a big cultural moment.


Camryn Rabideau

Camryn Rabideau is freelance writer specializing in digital lifestyle content, ranging from pop culture to smart home technology. Camryn has contributed to popular media sites such as InStyle, Taste of Home, Martha Stewart, Food52, USA Today, The Spruce and more.

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