What is with CornTok? Why some nonsensical trends take off

Well … It’s CORN! It’s got the juice. 

It will always be somewhat of a mystery why some content goes viral while other content does not. (Though, you can bet your bottom dollar that salesy, corporate-speak content will NEVER go viral, let alone really resonate with real people.) 

Why do some memes become popular memes? Why are we obsessed with a silly song about corn and why one young man loves it? Why do we all want to see teenage dirtbags, 22 years after the original song was released?

When a seemingly nonsensical trend starts to take off, it fills that basic human need that Mark Schaeffer talks about in his book Marketing Rebellion: connection. People want to feel connected to one another. They want to be an insider. A cool kid. Someone in the know and down with the latest and greatest.

That’s part of TikTok’s addicting appeal – you can create a video and let others use the sound from the video, stitch it, or duet it. 

TikTok makes it possible to have a conversation with video and to use that conversation to create inside jokes. And TikTok is not the only social media platform that’s been able to do that. Twitter’s been doing it for years. 

You see these insider jokes often on Twitter with brands like Radioshack, Wendy’s, and Wingstop posting content that may offend people who are not “insiders.” These people don’t get it. They aren’t cool, they aren’t in the know, and it’s funny when the content makes them upset. 

Screenshot of a Pinned Tweet from Wingstop that says "Our 12 new chicken sandwiches are so good, they're SOLD OUT" with an emoji of a chef who is shocked. Underneath is another tweet from Wingstop  that says "fuck." The tweets have 390 comments, 1,002 retweets and 11.3k likes.
Wingstop is capitalizing on a bit of shock value to speak directly to its customers who use Twitter. An edgy tweet for an edgy platform.

So what’s the key to being an insider and capitalizing on the content that for whatever reason happens to go viral? 

First, don’t take things too seriously. You don’t need to totally understand the trend and why it’s happening in order to hop on it. Jokes are lighthearted. Don’t worry about offending someone or seeming unprofessional by sharing photos of you and your coworkers as “teenage dirtbags” or be concerned that your product doesn’t have anything to do with farming so you shouldn’t post your own CornTok. 

Second, hop on it early. As soon as you see two or more videos, why not come up with a concept and adapt the trend for yourself. Learn that dance, do that challenge, or stitch that video. Trends are fleeting, but have major power when you act quickly. Waiting two weeks to hop on means you’ve already missed the boat. 

Wendy's tweeted an image of a blue "little miss" character who has red pigtails, similar to their logo, who is smirking to herself and the text above her reads "Little Miss Chronically Online Corporation"
Wendy’s hopped on the Little Miss trend but didn’t try to talk about their product. They poked fun at themselves and how hard their social media team works.

Finally, don’t be salesy. Trends are not the time to try and push your product. Be creative in your video and try to make it fit your industry to some degree, but don’t use it as a time to replace the words to the CornTok song with features of your product. People will skip it. Only hop on those trends that you genuinely enjoy and think your friends would enjoy, too. Trends are more effective when you use them to showcase your personality and values, not the benefits of your product or service. 

A word of caution – not every trend is for every person or company. If you truly don’t get a trend, don’t hop on it. If you don’t think it fits your values, don’t waste your time trying to make something that will miss the mark. 

Be creative, have fun with it, and enjoy the ride. And remember, when you try it with butter, everything will change. 

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please give it a thumbs up. My next post will probably be about TikTok and how to create engaging video content there … would you want to read that? Let me know! 

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