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Experimenting and taking risks with content

60% of marketers claim their content is more reactive in 2021 than it has ever been. Here's how to get it right!

Sophie Thompson
15th June 2021

60% of marketers claim their content is more reactive in 2021, than it has ever been.

And as Burger King, Lidl, and Nando's (to name a few) have discovered (we'll get into that later), being adventurous with reactive content can build your brand a great reputation and create a relatable persona - even for an audience that may not have considered using your product before.

Reactive content comes in many forms, but most often, it involves crafting content around an emerging trend or news story, or even responding to a competitor brand in an unexpected and humorous way that allows both parties to reap the engagement benefits. Of course, you'll still be planning and scheduling social media posts as usual, this is just a great boost in terms of engagement and awareness.

Just some of the reasons why reactive content is beneficial:

  • It helps you stay relevant
  • It gives your old content a new lease of life
  • It draws in new potential customers

If you tuned into our recent webinar with Social Chain founder, Steven Bartlett, you'll know that he's built an entire business (now worth $350million) around being reactive and conducting experiments that no one else in the marketing world was willing to at the time.

Steven made a great point on the subject:

"Thinking outside of the box is almost impossible because all we know is the box, so it’s important to derail yourself from worrying about what others think and attempt to get out of it wherever you can - if you do what everyone is doing, it's probably not going to get you the best results."

Steven also spoke about Social Chain’s employee WhatsApp group: ‘ever-changing landscape’. Each morning, the team receives an update when they start at work at 10am on everything that has changed in social in the previous 24 hours.

It allowed the team to carry out experiments on new platforms, test new algorithms, and form the ‘do now, apologize later’ approach that Social Chain takes to their content. That meant they could create huge campaigns in under one hour, without going through the long sign-off process that so often hinders creativity. And if it didn't work - they'd apologize later and try again!

While making use of a content planning calendar allows you to have a constant stream of useful content going out to your audience, it pays to also take a reactive, improvisational, and 'risky' approach to content publishing to start conversations about the topics your audience is currently engaging with.

The idea of launching a campaign without sign-off may seem really uncomfortable to most marketers right now, but could well be the future, and many brands are already following suit with great success - 93% of brand followers on Twitter plan to buy from brands that are being reactive. Here are some examples of reactive content done right...

Planned Social Media vs Reactive: Which is best?


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When two WAGs go head to head, it's an internet frenzy. Back in late 2019, Coleen Rooney accused football player Jamie Vardy's wife, Rebekah, of leaking details about her personal life. Ending with nothing but “It’s …….. Rebekah Vardy’s account”, her statement had over 300,000 reshares and everyone questioning what would happen next.

Despite having nothing to do with football (or gossip for that matter), Innocent drinks, who are known for their wit, used it as an incredible piece of content that allowed them to liken the juicy gossip to one of their juice drinks. The result? Over 3,000 reshares on a quick, easy win.


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The John Lewis Christmas advert is the most poignant moment in every British person's calendar. Meanwhile, budget supermarket, Lidl, had their own plans back in 2018.

When the advert was released featuring an Elton John cover (famed for his piano), they took the opportunity to promote one of their star buys of the week - a piano that was over £700 cheaper than John Lewis' offering!

While it can be perceived as awkward to dig at your competitors publicly, this tongue-in-cheek approach certainly paid off, and got them a lot of great PR too.


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When Beyoncé was designing her new Ivy Park collection last year, she could never have predicted the response it prompted, likening its maroon and orange color scheme to the uniform of supermarket giant Sainsbury's.

Sainsbury's social team were quick to jump onto the joke while it was trending on Twitter and created this ad, as well as their own hashtag, #SainsBey. Just by going slightly off the beaten track of their usual content, they gained attention from younger customers who may have never considered using them, or even working for them, before.

"WAIT. How did this turn into a Sainsbury’s drag?! I am LIVING!!!" one user commented, while another added: "100% heading to buy a meal deal after reading this". Given that Twitter's biggest age group is 25-34-year-olds (28.9%), there's little wonder a pop-culture-related piece of reactive content did insanely well for them.

How to work reactive content into your wider strategy

Despite the impact of reactive social media marketing content, an evolving and well-structured day-to-day social media strategy is still an essential requirement for all social/marketing teams (download our content strategy template here if you haven't already!) However, mixing in as much reactive content as you can make time for and analyzing the results with the same focus you give other marketing reports, will help you find the right balance - and get sceptical members of the team on board with this more ad-hoc approach.

Using a tool such as ContentCal's Analytics feature allows you to see the granular details of everything you post and make side-by-side comparisons against your other content.

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