I used to think I wanted something of mine to go viral. A Facebook post. A meme I created. I would even settle for being in the background of something that went viral. I thought, “How cool would it be to be the girl that did XYZ”.
As I have aged, I have learned through the mistakes of many a celebrity, that going viral isn’t always a good thing. The internet is forever. The internet never forgets. Just ask people like Kevin Hart or Chrissy Tiegen, whose past tweets have resurfaced and gotten them into some serious heat (in Hart’s case, enough flames to get him booted from hosting the 2019 Oscars).
Still, we love a good dance routine on TikTok to get the world dancing in sync, like the one Jaeden Gomez created to the smash hit “About Damn Time” from Lizzo. Even more, we love clips taken from popular shows that become memes, like the Dr. Phil “Catch me outside, how ‘bout dat” sensation that led now-rapper Bhad Bhabie to fame.
So how do we know when something that goes viral will have a positive or negative impact? Truthfully, we don’t. We do know, however, that when a marketer or organization makes a slip go viral, the real story is in how you bounce back.
Adidas had an epic faux pas in an email sent out that with the subject line “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” I know – oof. The email itself was only designed to congratulate those who ran the race but the “tone-deaf phrasing” made the situation spread like wildfire. Ultimately, Adidas issues a brief statement apologizing for the phrasing, and did their best to let sleeping dogs lie.
What could have Adidas done differently to turn the situation around? Honestly, not much. But as is the case with many viral oopsie daisies, there are options to capitalize. When HBO Max sent subscribers a blank test email to all users, they quickly recalled the message and shared this on Twitter:
Something that probably would have been ignored by most recipients then encouraged social media engagement for weeks. #HBOMax was trending, and articles were pouring out from mainstream media. This was good press, and out of something seemingly insignificant came a marketer’s dream of all eyes on our brand.
So, to viral or not to viral?
In a time where likes, clicks, comments, shares, etc. all matter most, organizations are doing their best to create viral moments. What we need to remember is that just because something goes viral doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Instead, we control our content the best way we can, and control the fire that may follow.