When Something Goes Viral
You Can’t Control What Happens Online, but How You React Is Key
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
Content posted on the internet can take on a life of its own, with the masses sharing it, adding comments, and promoting it to more and more people. This is usually an emotional response and seldom an informed decision.
The result is that something posted about you or your call center can go viral. There’s nothing you can do about it. Yet you can control how you react to it. It’s the only thing in your control.
Though we tend to think of something going viral as a negative occurrence, it can be positive. Don’t lose sight of this.
For positive viral content enjoy it, add fuel to it, and ride it for as long as you can. The only challenge is knowing when the message has run its course. Then it’s time for you to move on as well.
What’s more common, unfortunately, is negative viral content. It’s something we fear but ignoring its potential to appear won’t stop it. Instead, be prepared to react to it wisely to minimize its negative impact. Here are some tips to dealing with negative viral content online:
Don’t Go on the Offensive: A common response when attacked is to fight back. This seldom helps and often adds fuel to the fire. Whoever first posted the information or was one of the first to promote it, doesn’t care about the truth. They care about attention and feed off it.
The worst thing you could do is have a public conflict with this person. Their followers will defend them, and your followers will defend you. This escalates the situation and prolongs it.
Share Your Perspective Privately with Customers: Quickly communicate the truth or—your side of the story—with your customers. Keep your employees informed as well. A mailed letter may have the biggest impact and the least potential for misuse, though it also takes time to produce and deliver.
An e-mail to your customer list is a faster approach. Just be aware that anyone who receives it can easily forward it or post its contents. Even when a supporter’s actions are well-intended, it could make the problem worse. An email is especially risky if the message is thrown together in haste, has a critical tone, or is defensive.
You may consider posting something on your website but do so only after careful deliberation. It could hurt as much as it helps.
Let Your Supporters Defend You: Avoid the temptation to defend yourself online. Let your supporters do that for you. A carefully worded reaction from a third party could be the first step to vindicate you, lessen the negative impact, and give reasonable people a chance to consider your perspective.
Conclusion: You can’t stop negative information about you or your call center from spreading unabated over the internet. but you can mitigate its impact. Preparation is the first step. Plan how to respond should the time arise. And if it does, don’t panic and work your plan.
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In Sticky Sales and Marketing, Peter uses a coherent story-driven process to highlight what works and what doesn’t to break down sales and marketing strategies. In doing so he provides the building blocks to develop a sales and marketing strategy that will stick, as well as escape promotion failures that could damage your reputation, hurt your business, or harm your career. Sticky Sales and Marketing is now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
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A Thought for Today
“Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out—it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” -Robert Service