One of the biggest impacts of the digital era is the huge advancement in the speed of communication. The latest joke, speech soundbite, or funny otter picture can travel around the world and back in minutes.

With topics going in and out of style quicker than ever before, how can your brand hope to keep its social media presence fresh and innovative? Sometimes, instead of guiding the conversation, you have to go where it already is.

Hashtags, shares, and retweets make it easy for your brand to get in on a subject people are talking about. But if you make a mistake, you run the risk of seriously alienating your business and hurting your reputation.

Here are three important considerations to make before hitting the tweet, post or publish button:

  1. Try not to polarize – but if you do, keep it consistent with your brand

One of the most common social media rules you’ll read says not to be polarizing. Treat your social media feed like a first date: avoid religion and politics at all costs. But what if you really want to distinguish your brand and attract your target audience, even if it means potentially isolating another group of people?

If you’re going to be polarizing, keep it in line with the beliefs and core philosophies of your organization. If one of your company goals is to promote environmentally friendly business practices, it makes sense that you would support organizations and activists concerned with climate change. Don’t jump on board with the latest cause that seems to be most popular if it means sacrificing the essence of your organization.

  1. Pick your spots and know when NOT to say something

There are some issues and events that are a little too serious for your brand to weigh in on. Think: murders, terrorist attacks, serious natural disasters, etc. If you’re going to address a major tragedy on your social media feed, it’s probably best to stick to a brief message of remorse. Don’t be like DiGiorno, the popular frozen pizza brand that took some severe heat in 2014 for jumping into a serious conversation about domestic violence to promote pizza.

  1. Be early AND different

Since topics become outdated so quickly, speed is critical for success on social media. You’ve got to jump in on a topic while it’s still trending, but you also have to add your own unique take on it.

Oreo gave us a perfect example of how to nail both elements during the 2013 Super Bowl. When the game was suspended for 34 minutes because of a power outage in the Superdome, Oreo tweeted a graphic reassuring users that they could “still dunk in the dark.” The ultra-fast timing of the message and its interesting take on a situation that tens of millions of people were experiencing simultaneously made for one of the best recent examples of timely social media use.

There are dozens of statements that could be made about how to effectively use social media to connect with people, but these three points should serve as broad guidelines. If you make the right moves on social media, you can seriously improve your reach and get more attention from both existing customers and new prospects.