Going viral…. do you really want to?

From an Expert's Perspective

This month, we hear from Paula Reile and Sarah Godfrey, with the Business & Commercialization Innovation Centre.

The allure of going viral is strong to many small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMES); who wouldn’t want millions of people looking at your business? Think of all those potential customers! The reality of going viral is much more complex and may not be what is best for the long-term success of your business.

Social Media Influencer, at counter in front of iPhone (filming a video)

When a business goes viral, it can be for the right things or for the wrong things; each way has complexities and lessons to be learned. Let’s say you go viral for the right reasons; your video or post resonates with many; they found your product and service, and they want it now! Sounds great, but when your business is used to servicing 100 customers a month, and now you have 10,000 orders, do you have the supply chain in place to support rapid growth? If you don’t, as quick as the magic of being viral lifted you up, it will tear you down. Countless small businesses have experienced this: they go viral, but now they cannot get the product out in a timely fashion or provide adequate customer service. What follows next is angry customers who will comment on your posts relentlessly about your shortcomings. They may stitch a video together to advise others of their poor experience. They can harm your business long term because we know what goes on the Internet, lives on the Internet.

The wrong reasons

Going viral for the wrong things is more difficult to navigate. What does going viral for the wrong reasons mean? It often is how a business behaves online. Where we have seen this go wrong is when a business decides to rebut a negative review or comment through a short-form video response. The business owner believes they are correct in their thinking of a situation, and the Internet decides you were in the wrong, not the customer. This again can lead to many negative comments, and stitches to the original video. This can have a lasting harmful impact on the business.

Social Media - Audience looking at phone looking shocked.

The right reasons

Social media can be a wonderful place for brands, and can support a positive community, so what can you do as a business to protect yourself from the potential pitfalls of going viral? In the scenario of going viral for the right reasons, a business can ensure they have product quantities/limits available, no matter the size of your business. When you do this, it can create a positive effect when you go viral. Many businesses have used this strategy to grow, utilizing the limited quantities they produce in the form of product launch days, often selling out immediately, and repeating on a weekly/monthly basis.

PEACHYBBIES Slimes out of Texas in the United States used this strategy very effectively and are a great example of knowing what they can reasonably produce. In addition, their weekly launches continue to be wildly successful. If you find yourself in the situation of selling more product that you can support, be upfront with customers, post to your social channels right away, and close ordering immediately until paid customers are satisfied.

To avoid going viral for the wrong reasons, ensure you approach every conversation online with care and attention. Don’t get into debates into the who is right or wrong in a negative customer situation. Instead, advise that you’re sorry they had a negative experience and ask that you’re given the opportunity to make things right. At the end of the day, trolls are trolls, and sometimes disengaging is the best thing you can do.

Interested in learning more about BCIC and how they can support your business?

Explore BCIC’s website, and contact David DiPietro, Manager, Business Development, at [email protected].