What to Do if Your Brand Accidentally Goes Viral

Sometimes it can be hard to predict when a campaign is going to go viral. One of the best examples of this is the ALS Association’s “Ice Bucket Challenge”. The campaign was created to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and encourage donations for research. The ALS Association never predicted that the campaign would attract over 17 million participants, including celebrities like LeBron James, Ben Stiller, and Oprah, and the campaign led to boosted annual funding for the organization.

When your brand goes viral it’s very important to act quickly. Having a clear plan of attack in place ahead of time will help as you are controlling the flow of traffic to your website and social pages to prolong the viral moment or minimize damage. We’ve compiled our tips to help you develop a proactive plan for handling a viral moment when you’re not expecting one to occur.

Activate a clear call to action (CTA)

Without a clear call to action (CTA), or prompt that tells the user to take some specified action, new followers won’t know how to best engage with you. A call to action can include creating a pop-up website for users to share their information, sharing social media posts and responses, asking questions, encouraging education about the viral content in question, and more. Reaching people while you’re going viral, regardless of whether it is help or harming your brand, will ensure that you are in a good position to address what is happening while it is fresh in everyone’s mind.

Respond to people engaging with content online

As the original creator of the message, it’s important to follow up with fans or address concerns when your campaign is going viral. Make sure to engage with people online and have a clear plan established for social media community management to make sure that followers are being responded to in a timely, on-brand manner. You may remember the PepsiCo ad with Kendall Jenner featuring imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement that landed them in hot water in 2017. The ad was widely condemned by the public for trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement and led to the lowest brand perception PepsiCo had seen in nine years. However, by apologizing for the ad and promptly pulling it, as well as responding to people on Twitter (where the lion’s share of criticism was coming from), PepsiCo was eventually able to recover from going viral for the wrong reasons.

Determine why users wanted to engage with your content

Sometimes it can be tough to figure out what makes people tick but doing your research to get to the bottom of why your campaign went viral is essential whenever you go viral. For example, IHOP’s identity crisis campaign where they changed their name to “IHOB”, or “International House of Burgers”, seemed to be a failure at first when people online made fun of the campaign, but over time, IHOP realized that leaning into it was helping improve brand retention and foot traffic to restaurants in the long run. Pay close attention to what people are saying while your brand or campaign is going viral, and consistently evaluate performance and trends to zero in on what people are responding to and what they are having issues with.

Have a plan for what comes next

Using your research and everything you learned during your viral moment will help prepare you for next time. Evaluate what worked well for controlling traffic and take notes of any vulnerabilities that came to the surface as your brand took spotlight. Every online viral moment is different and it’s important to learn from each one to make sure that you are improving the effectiveness of your approach each time.

We can help you create a detailed approach for navigating a viral moment and work with you as a partner to make sure that you get the best results. Get in touch with us at info@affirmagency.com and let’s talk about how we can help!

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