Going Viral on Social Media Can Make or Break Your Business

Updated on 11 February 2019

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viral social media nando's

Many of us have all seen people tweeting “please RT my business, my next client might be on your timeline” on Twitter.

Depending on your product or service, going ‘viral’ can be an effective way to generate buzz for your business, increase visibility and attract potential customers and clients.

But, it can be lethal if you are not careful according to Natalie Pool, head of Social Media, VML South Africa, a digital marketing, advertising and transformation agency.

“The trick is making sure that your brand, product and service are aligned to the message of your viral content. For example, you don’t want to go viral with content about your eco-friendly products only for people to find out palm oil is the major ingredient.

“You also don’t want to go viral and then have new customers experience bad service in your store or on your website.”

She warns: “Bottom line: only aim to go viral when the rest of your house is in order.”

You need to ask yourself: Why do I want my content to go ‘viral’? Is it to get discovered, change perception or to drive leads?

Have a strategy

In truth, creating ‘viral’ content takes hard work, budget and a little bit of luck,

She says for content to be found, loved and shared online, you need to have a strong, well-defined strategy in place. “Then you need to ask yourself: Why do I want my content to go ‘viral’? Is it to get discovered, change perception or to drive leads?

“Only once you have you defined success, does the hard work really begin. You need to know what conversations are happening online, what is the sentiment of these conversations and which ones are relevant for your brand to be a part of,” explains Pool.

“There is nothing worse than a brand jumping onto a hashtag with hastily-created content and no real context of what the conversation is about.”

Fast food brand Nando’s has mastered viral marketing. Below are examples of Nando’s messagings on Twitter:

Pool shares how to put together your next campaign. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a viral content marketing campaign?

Obviously going ‘viral’ online means that you gain some kind of brand awareness (hopefully the good kind). And ultimately you want to turn that awareness into sales.

If content goes viral for the wrong reason, you can do serious brand damage that could take some time to undo. For a small business or startup this can be hard to recover from.

What should you do to go viral the right way?

1. No matter what, your content must stay true to your brand and what you stand for.

2. Secondly, you need clever copy writing combined with eye-catching design and a well-timed publishing schedule. Knowing when and where to publish your content is key.

According to research conducted by New York based Growista.com on 2017 viral content, Facebook is responsible for most shares of viral content and users are more likely to share video. Do with that, what you will …

3. With all the content being produced, it’s challenging, but so important to break through the clutter and stand out. Offer a unique point of view. Make people laugh. Reward them with something beautiful.

3. Using a hashtag (either your own or one that is already trending) will help you monitor and report on the conversation around your content.

4. If you don’t have a big following or presence online, you may need some media budget and/or an influencer strategy to help gain a wider audience.

Make it easy for customers to find and contact you

What should you have in place in the case you do go viral?

1. Be prepared. Even some of the most-loved campaigns have encountered negative reactions (See Gillette’s #TheBestMenCanBe short film and the comment section if you dare) and you need to have an engagement plan and someone skilled to handle your social media queries.

2. Use a free social listening tool like Hootsuite to monitor the conversation around your brand and hashtag so that you can engage and measure the performance.

3. If your content does go viral for all the right reasons, make it easy for customers to find and contact you. Check that your website and social profiles are up-to-date with contact details and product or service info.

4. Finally, create a content plan that supports your ‘viral’ content so that this one piece of content isn’t the first and last time people hear from you.

What are some  ideas to generate free (or inexpensive) advertising for your business on social media?

1. Tried and tested paid media can go a long way to targeting the right people, at the right time, in the right place with a message that is relevant to them.

2. Working with brand ambassadors in a long-term, authentic manner will also help you spread your message to a wider audience.

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