Go Viral for the Right Reasons: Lessons on Social Media Moderation

April 18, 2024 · READ

In his best-selling book One Million Followers, social growth hacker Brendan Kane claims one way to take your brand viral fast is to “give your audiences the unexpected, at unexpected times.”

Sane advice.

You want to provoke conversation about your brand through the channels that make sense. One effective way to do this is to continually surprise your audiences with provocative content on social media, through review sites, and via ads that your fans will comment on and share. However, one way you definitely don’t want to go viral is by inadvertently creating a social media crisis—usually a shock rather than a surprise.

Unintended Consequences

By nature, viral content is out of your control. What you can control is your understanding of the environment, the key players that may engage, and the sensitive topics that can pull your brand in the wrong direction.

One example of misdirected virality: Dove, the champion of body positivity, had a wild ride in 2017 they might wish they could scrub from their history. The brand decided to drop a line of shower gel bottles representing different body types. This wasn’t a great example of having their finger on the pulse of X, formerly Twitter.

Social media users wasted no time assassinating Dove over this. Who wants to reach for a bottle of soap only to be reminded of their body shape every morning? Clearly, the brand missed the visual sensitivity of the topic they’re usually excellent at subtly addressing. More wrong ways to go viral in just a bit. First, let’s look at some right ways.

Align with a cultural conversation. Another shining example comes from Nike, the juggernaut of athletic apparel. In 2018, they launched their “Dream Crazy” campaign featuring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The campaign sparked widespread conversation and controversy, with Kaepernick being a polarizing figure due to his activism against racial injustice. However, Nike stood firm in their support of Kaepernick, igniting a storm of support from their loyal fan base and beyond. The campaign’s bold message of empowerment and social justice resonated with millions, propelling Nike into an even brighter spotlight.

Social media moderation played a pivotal role in shaping the narrative and ensuring the campaign’s success. By closely monitoring both Nike’s and Kaepernick’s social media accounts, the brand was able to gauge public sentiment, anticipate reactions, and swiftly respond to any potential backlash. This proactive approach not only allowed Nike to stay ahead of the curve but also enabled them to leverage Kaepernick’s immense following and the organic buzz surrounding the campaign. By staying engaged with their audience and monitoring conversations in real-time, Nike effectively navigated the complexities of a highly polarizing topic.

Reframe the narrative. Make controversial topics work for you by quickly countering aggressive social post responses with your own posts that wield accurate data and facts as your weapon. The faster you respond, the faster you mediate the spread of a potential social media crisis. American Express utilized data-driven insights during their “Small Business Saturday” campaign to address criticisms about the initiative that centered on workaholism. By highlighting positive engagement metrics, such as higher customer satisfaction scores, American Express successfully reframed the conversation and highlighted the campaign’s positive impact on small businesses.

Share customer success ratings. Similarly, PayPal leveraged data analytics to effectively address concerns related to its fee structure and customer service. By transparently sharing metrics on its website, such as transaction success rates, PayPal provided tangible evidence of its commitment to customer service excellence and financial transparency. This data-driven approach not only helped quell negative sentiments but also bolstered PayPal’s reputation as a trustworthy financial services provider.

Handle Social Media Crises Immediately

Here are a few more viral content examples you don’t want hanging from the neck of your brand:

Ethnic insensitivity. To promote The Man in the High Castle – a TV show set in an alternative future in which the Axis Powers won WWII – Amazon plastered the seats, walls, and ceiling of a subway train with American flags featuring the German Eagle and Iron Cross. The campaign was quickly called out online for disrespect to Holocaust survivors. Amazon apologized and hastily repainted the train. However, reputational damage was done.

Accidental greenwashing. What started as a routine marketing campaign for an oil and gas firm quickly turned into a viral debacle. The brand’s attempt to showcase its commitment to environmental sustainability backfired when a promotional video featuring clips of lush green landscapes and pristine waters was discovered to be stock footage. Netizens accused the company of greenwashing—falsely portraying themselves as eco-friendly to mask their environmental impact. Within hours, hashtags condemning the company flooded various social media channels, prompting a public relations nightmare that the brand is still struggling to contain. It’s not an exaggeration: In order to avoid viral situations like these, your brand needs 24/7/365 oversight, including resources dedicated—and quick responses—to online shifts.

No matter how carefully you accommodate the latest algorithm and curate your messaging, your social engagement will sometimes go sideways. You and your comms team are already stretched to the point of no return. How do you guide your brand safety 100% of the time?

Social Media Moderation Takes You Viral the Right Way

Resolver’s Moderation for Brands can help you avoid negative virality by continuously studying your brand’s owned and paid channels. Our approach circumvents related online conversations before full-scale chaos takes hold, by generating quick, concise Situation Reports that focus on the risks that are arising. Online scandals can slash stock prices by as much as 20%. How can you avoid this? Deploy Resolver’s Moderation in the form of ML-based comment detection, complemented by a team of humans who are at work for you around the clock. Request a demo of our brand equity protection solutions focusing on moderation >

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