Social media reporting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – and we’re not talking about marketing metrics you’re gathering to share with the C-suite, but “news” as it exists in the age of social media. It affects the mood of consumers and that can help or hurt your brand, so understanding how to monitor it – and what to do with that information once you have it – is essential.

Years ago, when the world sought daily news, we’d read the newspaper or wait for regularly scheduled television broadcasts with the occasional emergency interruptions, sharing only the most pressing, ‘must know’ information of the day. But now we’ve become accustomed to updates every minute, on demand that even news stations broadcasting 24/7 can’t keep up with our need for constant, immediate information.

News today, particularly breaking news, is a dangerous animal that never sleeps. It’s at once awful and intriguing and any marketer meaning to rise above the noise has to stay on top of its trending topics and fold them (cautiously) into their brand’s bag of tricks or risk falling behind. It offers exceptional dangers and opportunities for those willing to hold on tight and ride it for all its worth.

It Mostly Makes Us Miserable

Maybe not mostly, but a good part of the time, what we see as breaking news is not a feel good moment. The Net Sentiment score (a measure of sentiment from -100 to 100) we see in NetBase’s Instant Search tool is hovering at 12% right now and is regularly in the red:

Doesn’t sound like the best marketing tool tactic to turn to then, does it? But it can be. Humor works incredibly well in the breaking news category, particularly when joking about otherwise serious concerns:

Not to suggest that a brand should participate in politics in any meaningful way, but a retailer joking about a sports upset makes sense – and even a nimble cookie company can get in on the mix, as Oreo did when the power went out during the Super Bowl:

And there’s good reason to participate in EMEA, particularly Europe. Most adults in European countries, including Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, the UK, Netherlands, France and Germany get at least some of their news from social media – and of that number, most check it every day. That’s a huge audience to have in your pocket, if you can catch their eye(s).

From their self-reported data, we see that most of them can found, at some point, on Facebook. And from our own extensive data, we see many are also participating on Twitter (for breaking news):

So what’s a savvy brand marketer to do?

If you want to take part in the trending and/or breaking news cycle in a way that doesn’t alienate your audience, there are some pretty basic rules to follow:

  • Not every website update, employee promotion or new service offering is #breakingnews worthy; not should it be promoted as such. Save it for your “news and updates” section on your website and save the aggressive promotion for truly meaningful changes. Readers lose trust in what you have to say when you abuse this.
  • Have a clear brand voice, and one that those in charge of social media understand explicitly, with examples of on-message communications to guide managers’ efforts so they can move quickly without running into a web of red tape when trying to latch on to a relevant news item. Time is of the essence and having complete confidence in your team is crucial.
  • Use relevant hashtags to attract your audience, and have something meaningful to say that relates to whatever you’re discussing. How can you sort this out? Sentiment analysis is your friend. Monitoring a conversation in your category and speaking to a segment in a way that shows you understand and empathize (or have an uncanny sense of timing/humour) creates a bond with fickle consumers – one that’s next to impossible to create otherwise.
  • Understand that trending topics don’t have to be controversial, and although lots of it is awful, there’s plenty to focus on that isn’t. And it’s a great place to start. It’s even a great place to stay.


This Switzerland snapshot gives us an idea of a more “newsy” mix, sans controversy (for the most part), with a luxury lifestyle offering and a medical advance grabbing top spots:


And yes, as seen above, you’ll always see some sort of political demonstration popping up these days. Add that to your list of things that any brand marketing would do well to ignore, unless you’re goofing on a US President, of course. That’s always good for a laugh if you can keep it light!

We can help you identify breaking news that make sense for your brand to track – and also show you how to track it! Reach out for a demo to see it in action.

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