Recently, I’ve noticed a spike in the rate at which pop cultural current events get picked up in both major and minor media. A quick google search for “Miley Cyrus VMA” yields a shocking 71,600,000 results, many from massively influential media sources, such as CNN, the Huffington Post, and Mashable. Many of these sites don’t even include a commentary or any original content at all, choosing instead to simply re-post the notorious video. I also recently came across this post, where the author was so frustrated by the lack of views on his other, much more brilliant content, that he falsely labeled an article with “Miley Cyrus,” simply to get his content in front of people.
This is a sad state of affairs, and what I’m dubbing the “Miley Cyrus” effect — the intentional use of pop cultural references (even if they aren’t necessarily related) to engage a wider audience and simply get people to click on content not 100% driven by outrage, surprise, or the other major driving forces behind “virality.” In other words, content creators (or, rather, the ones that are creating content of a higher level) are trying to fight fire with fire.
Does it work? Absolutely. As the image above shows, the posts that are tagged with current “in” celebrities are viewed a massive 70 times more than their more aspirational counterparts. While I personally feel that the internet needs more help than ever to retain its meaning, there are ways to leverage the power of pop culture for good instead of “evil.” Here are two easy ways to leverage current events in your content strategy.
1. Be reactive.
Good content doesn’t necessarily need a 3-week long lead time to complete. Sometimes it can be as simple as cleverly reacting to a trending current event. Write a blog post, create a piece of media for social, or upload a “reaction” video to YouTube. Just make sure that your post is topical and relates to your own editorial line, or you’ll diminish your credibility instead of gain it.
2. Make jokes.
Often, people “keyword spam” by simply filling their sentences with a billion topic-based words that they want to rank high in via Google. Instead of filling your content with random bits and pieces of pop culture, instead let your personality shine and tell a joke. The context of your keywords is taken into account by Google and will help increase where you fall in the search rankings.
Using these tricks will help you leverage the power of pop cultural online and get your content in front of more eyes, without falling into the republishing trap of doom. Provide a meaningful commentary related to your overall brand editorial line and you’ll win buckets of new traffic for your sites (even if Miley’s VMA performance didn’t win her any fans in the media).