As PR professionals, we spend time dreaming about that next big viral phenomenon: a tweet, video, or campaign that will reach millions around the globe, and ultimately drive action. We brainstorm ideas that have never been done before and march into unchartered territory. And, the most rewarding part of viral distribution is that it’s earned, not sponsored.
But what happens when viral campaigns go wrong? The recent example here is NYPD’s Twitter account @NYPDNews asking locals to tag themselves in photos with officers using the hashtag #myNYPD. Within hours, tweets with photos of police brutality triggered a cyberavalanche and the campaign totally backfired.
Social media campaigns in general can go sideways because there’s no one sole spreader of a viral campaign - anyone with Internet access can spread it like wildfire and ruin reputations. Within minutes, you can get lots of eyeballs and comments, but lots of bad press can come with it. The best ways to recover from accidental or intentional slip ups include being quick to apologize and own the blame. Another good rule of thumb is to have a long history of professionalism on your social media account. If a mishap occurs, your long-time followers are more likely to trust you and forgive you.
Some viral disasters don’t always have cures - so be careful with social media campaigns. They’re contagious!