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The power of small moments for brands on social media

RPA’s Quinn Rufener explores how some of the latest viral moments across social media have revealed a few guiding principles for brands looking to seize these moments in ways that are true to who they are and what they stand.

4 min read

MarketingSocial Media

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Every viral moment on social media is fleeting. It can be difficult for brands to discern when or whether jumping on a trend will be worth it. Not just in the sense of whether it will make an impact, but will anyone get it or will they have missed the moment? 

If brands leverage these small moments in simple yet intentional ways there is the opportunity to bring themselves into the conversation and humanize the brand. 

Recently, there have been a few patterns and formulae that brands have begun to grab onto that have hit the mark.

Uncut Gems

  • Spotify saw a moment after it-girl Julia Fox spent time on one of their featured podcasts and they took it. They brought that now-famous audio to TikTok and the community got to work. 
  • Why it worked:  No one asked the internet to meme-ify this clip, they just did what they always do best. It became an organic trend rooted in a brand moment, with audio at its core.
  • Learnings: Bloopers or a weird soundbite can take the internet by storm; not being polished and perfect all the time can create some fun moments and lower the barrier to entry for audiences looking to make their own mark with the source material.

Wheels vs. Doors

  • It started with a tweet poll from some lads that spread across every social platform, and suddenly everyone was picking a side.
  • Why it worked: Wheels versus Doors is a simple debate that has no right or wrong answer (that anyone could possibly figure out) and everyone could join in on the conversation to give their POV (the internet’s favorite thing to do) without fear of attack from those who disagree. Low stakes sometimes means more takes.
  • Learnings: When a trend is so universal that anyone can participate, it’s the perfect opportunity for brands to get involved with a quick-turn but well-executed post

Sumo Oranges

  • A simple TikTok of a woman professing her love for Sumo oranges at Trader Joe’s can stick in your mind for weeks, or until that next trip to the store. Not everyone saw the video, but if you know, you know.
  • Why it worked: There’s power in being in an in-group, and just having seen a TikTok that’s referenced can give users a sense of belonging — as seen from Oreo
  • Learnings: There’s untapped potential in micro-moments. Brands don’t have to speak to all people all of the time and can bring a little fun to the brand, creating an inside joke in the process.

Looking ahead

Great ideas and executions can come from anywhere, and people are really responding to human, relatable, clever moments from brands. When a potentially viral moment comes along that is so universal like the Wheels versus Doors debate, evaluate it seriously but quickly using a defined engagement framework. If you can get there before the late-night talk-show hosts, give it your all.

Not every moment is big enough to go viral, but as @Khaenotbae would say: “The girls that get it, get it, and the girls that don’t, don’t.”

If your brand is a girl that gets it, go for it. Not all brands need to jump on every trend, but if clients seem open to the ideas, continue to guide them toward these possible viral moments. Users know brand accounts are run by internet geeks just like them, and when brands lean into it, there is a chance to build a stronger online community. It may be time to throw away that old social media playbook (or at least put it back on the shelf) to make room for some small moments. 

Ultimately, what made the Uncut Gems trend above so interesting is that it was a perfect execution of the TikTok culture that came from an organic brand moment. If brands keep putting out native content that offers an opportunity for creators to leverage, while trusting that the internet doesn’t need much coaching, more trends can blossom. 

You’ll never know if you never try.


Quinn Rufener is a digital strategy specialist at RPA in Santa Monica, Calif. Prior to this position, Quinn spent years in client services across the entertainment industry, insurance, consumer packaged goods and automotive. She has made the transition to digital strategy after a decades-long love affair with social media.

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