How to Leverage Pop Culture to Create Social Media Content That Captivates and Converts

By Jenna Guarneri, Founder of JMG Public Relations and author of, ‘You Need PR’

If you want to regularly communicate with your customers (hint: you do!), then you know that social media is where those connections happen.

While the most popular social media platforms continue to evolve and shift, the number of participants moves inextricably in a single direction: up and to the right.

4.89 billion people actively used social media in 2023, meaning more than half of the global population is online and engaged with various social media platforms. This staggering number is expected to eclipse 5.85 billion by 2027.

Social media use is even more ubiquitous among the highly coveted 18-34-year-old advertising demographic. One report found that 90 percent of GenZ adults use social media, and 88 percent of Millennials say they regularly engage with these platforms. Notably, Gallup found that social media users are more likely to browse content than post themselves, and at least part of their browsing is allocated to their favorite brands.

Ninety percent of social media users follow at least one brand on their accounts, and the same percentage buy from brands they follow on social media, making the digital landscape a critical place for impactful customer engagement and connections that drive core company objectives.

However, as anyone who has ever engaged with social media undoubtedly understands, these platforms are an uninterrupted scroll, and getting people to stop, look, and engage with your content can be extremely difficult.

The Social Media Engagement Dilemma

On social media, like in real life, brands must cut through the clutter of consumers’ hectic schedules and their fleeting attention spans to create opportunities for engagement and connection. While it’s an imprecise science, brands have just seconds to attract their attention and mere moments to demonstrate value.

Simply put, getting people to stop scrolling and focus on your content is a lot more difficult than posting. There are many reasons for this.

Some brands don’t understand their audience, or how they engage with social media. A HubSpot marketing survey found that just 42 percent of brands know their customers’ basic demographic information, critical data that informs what platforms customers use and how they engage with them.

For example, according to an analysis by HootSuite, nearly three-quarters of Facebook users are over 25, while a quarter are over 45. In contrast, almost 60 percent of GenZ adults use TikTok daily, and 42 percent are between 18 and 24.

While a multiplatform presence helps maximize exposure, effective social media content will optimize for the demographics and norms of each platform while prioritizing the places where their customers spend the most time.

Of course, even when brands understand their audience and create content appropriate for each platform, there is no guarantee that they will win their engagement. Content quality, algorithm adjustments, and shifting consumption habits influence impact.

For brands looking to optimize customer engagement on social media, leveraging cultural moments can help solve these problems by stopping the scroll and allowing companies to create highly engaging, relevant content in real-time.

Leveraging Culture to Increase Engagement

The internet is a reflection and continuation of pop culture. Brands can leverage popular moments to create engaging, informative, and relevant content that finds an audience across social media platforms.

Here’s how you can begin that process now.

1. Know your audience.

Pop culture is in the eye of the beholder. What’s fun and engaging to a 35-year-old in Indiana probably differs from what resonates with an 18-year-old recent graduate from California.

Know your audience and prioritize the cultural moments that matter most to them, and understand that resonance is essential to attracting and maintaining their attention.

2. Pay attention to analytics.

Social media is more than just vibes, and it can be assessed using on-platform metrics that reflect audience engagement. Keeping an eye on analytics should be a central part of your social media strategy, facilitating a functional back-and-forth with your audience that helps refine content and inform future strategy.

Views, likes, shares, comments, link clicks, and other platform-specific engagement metrics are easy ways for social media managers and creators to measure their impact and evolve their efforts.

3. Prioritize timely content.

Viral cultural moments are often the fuel for an effective social media post.

Trending topics, popular memes, or real-time conversations can inspire media content that showcases your brand’s awareness and responsiveness and provides a shared context that causes people to stop scrolling and connect with your content.

Engaging in conversations about timely topics and celebrity news on social media—whether it’s the Barbie movie, Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, or the latest on Pete Davidson—offers brands an opportunity to connect and build trust with their audiences. This approach reflects a keen understanding of the audience’s interests, creating a narrative that speaks directly to them.

This requires agility and discernment, but when done right, it can turn an ordinary post into a shared experience that captures your audience’s attention and helps your content go further.

4. Create strategy imagery and messaging.

Coupling cultural moments with strategic messaging can amplify your reach and retain your audience’s attention.

For example, compelling photography on Instagram requires a careful balance between imagery and text to provide an interesting, informative product to get people to stop scrolling and be valuable enough to keep them coming back for more.

Similarly, deciding what goes into the caption versus what is featured in the post itself requires thoughtful consideration. The caption should complement the image, offering context or a call to action that invites further engagement.

If the post is a video, ensure there’s a compelling element from the beginning to the end to maintain viewer interest. Incorporate a hook that encourages viewers to watch through to the end, where a prompt to “read more” in the caption can lead to extended interaction with the content.

This balance of visual and textual information turns a simple post into a storytelling opportunity, inviting your audience to delve deeper.

Be Efficient, Effective, and Compelling

As the social media landscape becomes ever more crowded and the battle for consumer attention intensifies, brands must craft content that attracts attention and earns engagement.

You can maximize impact by leveraging cultural moments, stopping the scroll in time for people to engage and connect with your content. It’s a great way to ensure that your content is efficient, effective, and compelling, earning your audience’s attention when they have more options to choose from than ever before.

In an increasingly crowded and fast-paced social media landscape, leveraging pop culture in your social media content can be a powerful tool to help you and your brand stand out from the competition.

About the Author

Jenna Guarneri is the author of the #1 best seller, ‘You Need PR’ and Founder and CEO of JMG Public Relations, an award-winning PR firm for innovators and their mission driven companies. Jenna counsels innovators changing the world with their B2B and B2C venture backed startup companies. She is known for delivering quality work while fostering meaningful relationships with her clients, team, and media contacts. Jenna is an authority with a proven track record on reputation management, media relations, and brand communication.

Jenna launched JMG Public Relations in 2015 to offer a unique blend of creative thinking, strategizing, and execution of public relations campaigns. Jenna has the privilege of working with clients in all industries, including real estate, media, business, entertainment, lifestyle, fitness, and more.