From Zero to Viral
For as long as I have been coaching and talking about Social Media, I have been saying the same thing; “Viral Just Happens“. You cannot plan to make it happen. You cannot develop it. One day you are going to create something that resonates with people online and “whoosh!”, off you go! I have seen it happen dozens of times and it is always fascinating.
And Then it Happened to Me.
I typed a post, over my morning Cheerio’s, with the idea that a few of my friends might find funny. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was WHEN I was posting it. You see, the post was about the local ferry system, a hot button topic at the best of times, but even more so at the time I posted. The province was also in the final week run to municipal elections, so people in communities around the coast of British Columbia are watching and reading the Social Media streams about issues that are important to them. Then my 100 word rant hits the stream. 2 hours after the initial post, I returned to my Facebook account to find 800 Likes and hundreds of shares. Uh-Oh.
People are Commenting. Now What?
Late in the evening of the second day the post was online, I was watching the Likes on the post tick over like seconds on a clock. While I was stunned at the reaction to the post, as a Social Media Coach, I was pondering a more important question; now what? I have all these comments to react to. I have hundreds of shares to look at. I have people sending me friend requests like a flood and mainstream media is calling by any means possible. All of it made me realize that creating viral isn’t nearly as important as managing viral. If something you post does go “BOOM”, not having a plan to deal with it makes it an almost wasted opportunity.
So, I dug in and focused on what’s next. I watched the notifications and focused on the comments, versus the shares, looking for comments that would be of value to engage with conversation. I didn’t ignore the shares, though. I would look for shares on news pages, organizational pages or pages of influencers, then drop a comment on those shared posts. It was time consuming, but had value in that it helped push an already viral post to go even further. I also made sure that any media involved in covering the post, were also sharing it with their audiences. Leveraging the growing network of people and making sure that as many of them remained engaged in to the conversation as possible. Then there was the continued addition of new (and relevant) posts, to be added, in order to enhance the topic.
Traditional media plays a very big part in the marvel of viral. Television interviews with media, such as TV (CTV, Global, CHEK News) and Radio (CKNW 980, CFAX 1070, CBC and CHED 630) and even the local paper, help spread the word even further.
All of this work paid off, but my personal FB Profile Page was becoming impossible to manage…..so, on to the next phase.
Give Them What They Want.
After spending time reading and replying to so many comments and posts, I found that people were liking, sharing and commenting on the post because it was their chance to voice how they were feeling. I also discovered that there was NO way that I was going to be able to focus and manage the conversation, via my personal Facebook profile. So, after gathering my content, I created a Facebook Page that featured all the content and conversations around the subject of my original post, plus giving those who had been following the conversations, a place to add their own. Prior to the launch, I put out teaser posts and thoughts around what the “next phase” of the conversation was going to be, encouraging the tens of thousands following the conversations to stay tuned for something more for them to engage with. As I had hoped, this, too, resonated with the audience.
But, What If It’s Not Your Post?
It’s not uncommon for people and businesses to try and take advantage of a viral post. My original post was plagiarized within almost an hour of it going online. While News Jacking is not rare, it is rare that it is done effectively. In the case of my post, there are plenty of people and businesses that could leverage the viral nature of the topic, for their own ends. In a post about News Jacking Opportunity, Jordon Caron writes about how businesses can find opportunity in the viral conversation, by doing more than simply inserting themselves into it. In some cases it is possible to become a follow up story on the back of the original, simply by applying some good old fashioned customer service, in a very public manner.
As I write this, I am well into my second week of the post driving conversation. The new Facebook page past 1400 Likes in less than 48 hours and the comment stream continues to grow, by the hour. If there is a lesson to be learned, from these 100 words that lit up yet another dialogue about the Provincial Ferry Service, it is this; You can go from Zero to Viral in no time at all. Engage and Hold On.