The Pitfalls of Going Viral

When a company gets the use of social media right they are seen as a brand that understands how to speak to their consumers in the modern advertising landscape. But we all know social media is a tricky subject – the more exposure a campaign gets the bigger chance it can backfire – if careful consideration has not been given to the potential pitfalls.

Both industry aficionados and the general public alike should be familiar with the ‘First Kiss’ video that went viral on YouTube last week.

Now viewed over 58 million times – it later emerged the seemingly innocent video was indeed a brand ploy. Had this been appropriately stated in the opening credits of the video or at least even clarified as the video finished, I doubt the public would have been so intent on sharing it.

Yet the creators of the video pleaded ignorance – claiming they never expected the video to become such a success. The video’s director said the following:

“A friend called me up and said ‘You’re on the front page of Reddit,’ ” Ms. Pilieva said. “And I didn’t understand what that meant.” She had never heard of Reddit, a website known for minting viral hits.

But is that really an excuse? By creating an asset for a brand and then uploading it to YouTube you  clearly hope that it gains traction. It is rather hypocritical to then claim you never expected success and hence the spotlight once it emerges you did not stick to basic social media and advertising guidelines.

It’s a tough one – as we all want to believe brands can get social media right and if so, relish the success they deserve when a video is shared, parodied and so on. But having worked in social for over 6 years and being well aware of the required admissions bloggers and brands have to make when giving ‘influenced’ opinions I have to say that I don’t think sorry is good enough here.

On a happy note – it could also be that really people just don’t care where your brand or its collateral comes from, as long as it is buzz worthy. Proven in a sad, yet insightful trick played on obnoxious festival goers by Jimmy Kimmel at SXSW.

The moral of this post. It’s best to always tell the truth. You will get found out in the end and even faster when social media is involved!

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