Be Careful What You Wish For

by Vered DeLeeuw

Everybody wants “viral” these days. “Can you create a social media campaign that would go viral?” is a question I get asked almost on a daily basis. We invest in our social media marketing campaigns, and we want them to work. The interesting part is, that you never know for sure what would go viral – and when something does, it can actually be more than you had ever wished for.

It happened to me a couple of times on my personal blog – a blog post goes viral, and the traffic load is so heavy that the blog crashes. When you anticipate a surge in traffic, you can prepare in advance, using plugins such as WP Super Cache. But sometimes a blog post goes viral without any warning – you had no idea it would – and then you’re completely unprepared.

It also happened to me recently with a client. I create and implement regular social media marketing campaigns for that client, with the goal of increasing their number of Facebook fans and getting fans to engage with us. Some of the campaigns succeed in generating more fans, others – not so much. But recently, we came up with a campaign where we asked fans to view a short video, answer a question about it, and email it to us. Each person emailing us would get free product coupons, we told them.

And they came. Oh, the fans came and they viewed and emailed us and shared the promotion with their friends. We got what we wished for, and then some – 25,000 emails to deal with, 20,000 new fans. It’s a serious workload for a small team, and it threw us completely by surprise – we never expected this particular campaign to become so viral.

So, what are the conclusions?
1. anything can go viral and it’s important to be prepared.
2. It is more likely that a small prize that *everyone* gets will go viral, than a big prize that only one person wins. So, giving away a free product coupon to each person that registers has a bigger chance to go viral than giving away a trip to Greece to one winner. Take this into account when you prepare your campaigns.

A social media campaign that becomes too viral presents challenges, but it’s important to remember that after all, “OMG we’re on fire!” is always better than “fans are ignoring us.”

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