Thursday June 13, 2013 | 09:00 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

Today we have another Social Social guest post from the illustrious Judi Cutrone, senior social media strategist with The VIA Agency, here in Portland.

Buzz is one of those words that I am seriously starting to hate. 

It hasn’t done anything to me, of course. Buzz didn’t kill my father or anything. It hasn’t tried to get me into a pyramid scheme. It isn’t in my kitchen trying to force-feed me kale chips. But still, I’ve started to develop a twitch whenever I hear the word.

Unfortunately, when you work in social media, that word is everywhere. It’s vague enough to serve as a blanket term for basically whatever you want in social so of course we use it in excess. It’s short! It’s pithy! It’s fun to say- it’s got two zz’s! I am not completely immune to its charms. At times, I too enjoy sounding like a bumblebee mid-conversation.

And dammit, the word is necessary. Buzz is completely and utterly crucial if you want to market or advertise effectively through social media, it just is. You need it to become, stay or simply just sound relevant to your community. Buzz says that your brand “gets it.” That they are “with it.” They are catching what you “are laying down.” (I absolutely hate myself right now.) And if you’re not generating your own buzz, you can easily capitalize on the buzz of others and still sound relevant. Oh, buzz– you make it impossible for me to quit you.

So how do we do this? How does a brand capitalize on the buzz of others? Let’s talk it through with a (completely self-serving) example.

1. Dial in and pay attention. 

It’s easy enough to tell if a topic has buzz- does it feel like everyone and their mother is talking about it? That’s usually a good first sign. In order to tap into this, you need to be dialed in. You need to be engaged in social with a broad enough personal network on Twitter and Facebook to receive the signals that “this is happening now.” You can try to get away with just looking at trending topics on Twitter or the latest hot search topics on Yahoo but the conversations and habits of your large personal network can speak volumes. Add in a ton of articles on the topic from blogs and news organizations online and we’ve got buzz. (Note: if it makes it on the Today Show, we are officially over the tipping point. There is just too much buzz and now it will die and be declared “over.” Such is the destructive power of a dancing Al Roker; just ask the Harlem Shake.)

Our Example: Arrested Development is coming back! Buzz buzz buzz hype buzz.

2. Align The Buzz Content with Your Goals

This is important because anyone can hop on Twitter and talk about the Oscars during the telecast. Buzz is only going to carry you if it’s a) organically relevant to you and b) you can actually add something valuable to the conversation, whether it’s entertaining, informative or insightful. When a brand voice chimes in on a buzzy topic and it has no relevance to them at all, it can come off a little desperate.

Our example: People here at work love Arrested Development! We’re creative! Let’s creatively show our love for the show to share in the excitement! We’re hiring people! Let’s make it about hiring people!

3. Be Flexible- Buzz Moves, Move With It

Despite what PR people might try to tell you, no one really controls buzz (sorry Rob) especially when we’re dealing with the Interwebs. You might be moving in one direction and suddenly buzz takes a sharp left turn. To create content that capitalizes on that momentum, you have to be able to move with the current (if you’re keeping up with these metaphors, we were on a road and now we’re on a boat. That’s how buzz is! Just keeping it real!) and change direction fast. And timing is crucial and there are elements of that timing that very well might be out of your hands. Viral content, you might say, is what happens when you were making other plans (sorry John Lennon).

Our example: Let’s post our fun stuff after Arrested Development airs! Oh, wait, reviews are mixed and people are kind of bummed about the show now.

4. In the End, If What You Made is Good, Who Cares About Buzz

At least it’s still funny.


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Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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