Trending topics can help you extend your reach--if you're creative with them.

Trending topics can help you extend your reach–if you’re creative with them.

When Kanye West announced he was $53 million in debt, social media took the ball and ran with it.

There were plenty of memes, jokes across social media platforms, outrage and, we suppose, some sympathy somewhere.

There were also a few places that used the trending topic to their advantage.

Enter Pizza Hut, who responded to the announcement with an offer of help that went viral for all the right reasons: it was clever, it was catchy and it was fun. It was a perfect example of audience engagement and content marketing. 

The pizza chain, which has for years been trying to remake its image, responded on Twitter by offering Mr. West a job to help him pay down his debt–and they did it in a way that sounded perfectly logical: “Please give us a call about your job application, thanks.”

When the tweet took off, they followed up, using a slightly tongue-in-cheek tone: “Stop telling everyone you need dough and try kneading some dough. We got your C.V. Today. You start at 9 a.m. tomorrow.”

The reaction was fairly quick and universally positive. One of Pizza Hut’s followers told the chain they had earned a new customer, based on the response alone. (He did admit he liked another Domino’s Pizza better, which is a rather back-handed compliment).

Another follower said she was so impressed, that the person who initially wrote the tweet deserved a raise. Pizza Hut’s response to that was the proverbial cherry on top of the ice cream: “No, no, Carly, we couldn’t accept a pay raise. Kanye needs the money more.”

Attaching your brand to a trending topic can greatly extend your reach, if you remember a few basic rules.

1. Stay true to your brand. 
Don’t just latch on to every trending topic, do it in a way that makes sense. Extending a job offer to a supposedly broke celebrity is smart because you are not advertising your brand, you’re explaining how you can help in a clever, humorous way. Make it about the topic, not about you.

2. Keep your tone consistent.
If you’re using humor to extend your reach, be ready to respond to those who jump on board in a humorous way. You’re taking part in a conversation in a way that you hope will be engaging to a new audience. Be prepared to follow the conversation.

3. Keep it personal.
The best thing about the above examples? “No, no Carly.” It’s unlikely that whoever was crafting the messages for Pizza Hut expected Kanye to notice or respond. What he or she did believe, however, was that people following the conversation would take note. They are the important ones, after all.

Even if the follower who claims to be a converted customer never orders a single pizza, his response earned 11 retweets and 81 likes, alone. That’s how you build an audience, organically.

Or it’s one example, at least. Can you think of others? Let us know in the comments.