No, we aren’t talking about coming down with a nasty case of the chicken pox. But ‘Going Viral’ is not so dissimilar from what its name suggests. We’d even argue it is an infection of sorts – albeit without the illness and fever. When a piece of content goes viral on social media, it captures attention and spreads like a virus, infecting users as it races across the Internet. And while going viral is what marketers’ dreams are made of, it can also be a brand’s worst nightmare. Remember the first time you saw the Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook? Its results were staggering, boosting awareness about ALS and gaining more than $100 million in donations in a single month. Great, right? Now let’s take a look on the flip side. Do you recall Snapchat’s Bob Marley filter fiasco? Not so great…Virality is a powerful beast, and when unleashed is capable of bringing about just as much damage as success.
It all started when 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson jokingly took to Twitter in a quest for free chicken nuggets from Wendy’s. But not even Wilkerson or Wendy’s could have anticipated what ensued. And just like that, #nuggsforcarter was born. In a mere seven days, Wilkerson has gained 2.8 million retweets and is quickly on his way to dethroning the current reigning retweet champion (with 3.2 million) – Mrs. Ellen DeGeneres herself. This is someone who, at the time of the Tweet, had only 150 followers compared to DeGeneres’s 60-something million. In addition to racking up some serious Twitter fame, Carter also exemplifies just how powerful a loyal brand advocate with a social media account can be. Wendy’s couldn’t have planned a campaign this successful – however, by engaging with their audience in a personal and creative way, they are now reaping the benefits of Wilkerson’s chicken nugget virality.
Pepsi’s Protest or Protest Pepsi?
If you have access to Wi-Fi, you’ve likely heard about Pepsigate by now. The politically fueled ad, featuring Kendall Jenner, aimed to project a message of peace and unity, encouraging the public to join the conversation. And did they ever…just not the conversation Pepsi was expecting. In just 2 minutes and 39 seconds, the soda giant incited social media outrage. Within 48 hours, the video received 1.6 million YouTube views and more negative opinions than any brand would know what to do with. While Pepsi may have meant well, all the public saw was a soda conglomerate using a national movement for equal rights to try and boost sales. Sure, Pepsi was quick to pull the ad and offer up an apology once backlash sparked. But the results live on across social. The ad serves as a stark reminder that marketers must place themselves in their audience’s shoes,because at the end of the day, it is perception that determines a brand’s success.
The takeaway? In a world where social media rules and sensitivity is at an all-time high, you cannot ignore the power audiences’ hold. Social media gives every individual a voice and what those individuals say about your brand can be the difference between a marketer’s dream and a PR nightmare.
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