In our modern online world, anyone, any brand, any thing can go viral for any reason. It could be a brand new account or someone who has been active on social media for years. Then, boom! Overnight, they're a global phenomenon. Some brands would kill for this type of social media fame. Some people have no interest in this popularity online. Whether it happens for all the right reasons, or for reasons we'd rather didn't happen, the potential for social media fame is out there for everyone.
The big problem is usually what happens after the frenzy hits. How does a brand respond? How do they posture themselves for success? How do they mitigate risks?
Most brands and people are not prepared for this kind of moment in the spotlight.
We've all seen examples of this go bad. Hello, Amy's Baking Company on Kitchen Nightmares.
But we've also seen examples of brands who were prepared. Think Kohl's after the Chewbaca mom mask went viral.
The difference isn't in the size of the company, but instead in their ability to adapt, know how to respond, and how to capitalize on the opportunity in a mutually beneficial way.
But this isn't just about businesses - although, yes, there are plenty of lessons for you here too. What really spurred this post for me was watching the 2018 Winter Olympics. These athletes, many of them kids fresh out of high school, are thrust into the global spotlight. Media interviews followed by press tours and photo calls. And their social media accounts blowing the eff up! I mean, they are literally gaining tens or hundreds of thousands of new followers overnight.
Has anyone ever sat down with them and explained the benefits, pitfalls, and risks of social media as a "celebrity"? Do they understand how something they tweeted 3 years ago could come back to haunt them in the media tomorrow? Are they exposing their personal details and information to potentially millions of people? Are those old Instagram photos going to embarrass them, or their future sponsors?
And furthermore, what do they do with this new found audience? What if they've rarely used Twitter before their medal-winning performance? Should they start now? What should they do?
Are they prepared to deal with the massive influx of requests coming their way from businesses and brands eager to capitalize on them as "influencers"? Do they understand the FTC regulations for sponsored posts and promoted content?
Whether they like it or not, these athletes are now their own brand. The rules of business and marketing now apply directly to them. Maybe it's my momma-bear instincts that kick in at these moments, but I just wanna grab all of these young athletes and stress the realities, best practices, and importance of social media presence. I want to protect them and prepare them.
I realize they have parents, and coaches, and some of them already have sponsors. They are getting information and guidance from multiple sources to help guide them. I just hope they're getting good information from smart people who are actually educated in this arena.
And, since I can't clone myself nor wrangle up an exclusive contract with the Olympic committee to offer these services 😉 I will at least write a blog post with some of my tips and recommendations to help you, as a brand of any sort, handle this kind of social media fame.
Take a Breather
Your world just blew up. Your DMs are flooded. Your follower account is growing by the minute. The trolls are appearing and attacking you. You can't even keep up.
So, stop. Take a breath and walk away from social media for a hot minute.
Get yourself together. Don't be too quick to react - you're emotional.
Prepare yourself (using the tips listed here) and then be ready to move forward in a proper way.
But, don't wait too long 😉 You don't want to lose momentum or the opportunity.
Realize You're Under a Magnifying Glass Now
Every. Single. Thing. You. Say. Is now being analyzed. Every comment is open to trolls and bullies. The media will pick up anything you say and run with it - regardless of the context in which it was shared.
Audit Your Social Media History
Whether it's a "celebrity" of any type (politician, actor, athlete, musician, YouTube star, or whatever), we've seen how old posts can ruin a reputation faster than you can read the old tweet. If you've posted anything offensive, divisive, or mean-spirited, be prepared for the repercussions.
Yes, in theory, you could delete the old post in hopes it hasn't been seen. But chances are, someone's already screen shotted that thing so it's out there. If you choose to leave any old content up online, be prepared to defend it, apologize for it, or take a stand on it.
If you have sensitive information of any kind - like your home address (hello geotags), contact info, your school, your kids' info, etc., get rid of it now! Delete it, hide it, edit it out. Do NOT waste time on this in any way.
Stay True to Your Brand
You know how they say fame changes people? Well it can change brands too.
The immediate thrust into the spotlight can scare brands (and people) into acting a certain way, talking a certain way, going politically correct and all Corporate speak.
Of course, as already mentioned above, yes you want to be wary of anything offensive. But if your brand has this cool hipster, laid-back style and all of a sudden you start using verbose and stuffy captions, you are going to alienate the loyal fans who have followed you thus far.
You can't lose your identity through the new found fame. Aaron Rippon of the US skating team is a wonderful example of staying true to his brand 😉 That guy is all personality and, if anything, it's shining even brighter now.
If you're used to getting 3 comments on each Facebook post and now you're getting 3000, it might be hard to reply to each and every one. That's understandable. But be responsive as best you can. You can "like" peoples comments or answer the most entertaining or direct comments.
You can also post short videos, go live, or create fun graphics as a way to engage, thank, comment, and respond to all the new comments on your profile.
You have a wide and captive audience at your fingertips. Do not let this opportunity wane. Be active on social media and build up your trust and loyalty with this new audience.
Share posts and insights about your journey in this new crazy world you're in. Invite people into a "behind-the-scenes" look at your brand.
Be entertaining and show off your brand personality and style.
Be helpful and supportive. Provide content of value and education.
Show your existing audience and your newly minted audience that you are a brand of substance and value.
Do Not Turn Into a Sales Pitch
For many, this onslaught of new followers is an immediate signal to push a sale. You have all these new eyeballs on your content so why not offer a product, discount, sale, or other promotion?
Why? Because it's the worst possible time!
These new followers know nothing about you as a brand. They are brand new. And they do NOT want to be sold to! They want to get to know you. Take time to build a relationship with these new followers before you do anything to start pushing sales.
Be a Leader
Whether you like it or not, people are now looking up to you as a role model. Whether you're an entrepreneur, a small brick and mortar business, a major corporation, or an athlete - your new found social media fame has turned you into a role model. People will look to you as an example and it's up to you how you use that.
Can you use this broad platform to bring awareness to something?
What can you do to lift up others in your space?
How can you positively impact the world? (if this sounds like a big ask, you don't understand the magnitude of social media celebrity)
Take this opportunity to show humanity, support, encouragement, and leadership as a brand.
Hire a PR Firm and/or a Lawyer
If you do not already have one of these on your team or in your arsenal, get one - or more than one. If you are a small business with no real PR experience, you need someone capable of managing your current situation. The same goes for a good lawyer. Knowing your rights and areas of risk as a business in the spotlight is something only a good lawyer can share with you.
These people can also help you navigate the slew of brands looking for you to peddle their products as an influencer. They can help you negotiate rates, contracts, and ensure the brands align with your own brand properly.
On an added note, I don't recommend hiring any PR firm or lawyer that cold calls you in your new found fame. Nope! They are being opportunistic and likely don't have your best interests in mind. Instead, do your research and find a team that works for you.
Plan Your Social Media Strategy
The initial burst of popularity is fun and exciting - for you and your new followers. Everyone's having fun and hanging out.
But to capitalize on that for long-term growth and conversions, you need a real social media strategy. You need to know who this new audience is, what they're interested in, how you're going to keep momentum going forward, what you're going to post, when you're going to post it, what your goals are for social media, and so much more.
I've written multiple blog posts on this topic and you are welcome to read them (search "social media strategy" in the right side bar menu over there). Or, you can reach out to me for personalized support with your social media strategy. I work with clients of all sizes and industries to help them do all of this.