Raise your hand if a client has ever asked you how to make their brand “go viral”. Anyone? We’ve all been there. Post-pitch or client meeting, snacking on pre-made sandwiches and diet coke when the inevitable question immerges from the full mouth of a well-meaning client – “So will this plan make us go viral?”. *Sigh* If you’ve found yourself in this situation, I have a response for you: “No, in fact we don’t recommend trying to go viral for the sake of going viral.” To which your client will likely go wide-eyed and ask what you mean, and you will say “Our focus is actually more on building a relationship with our consumers in the event that one of THEIR videos goes viral and here’s why:” (more on that later).
Marketers and Social Media Managers know that going viral is a unicorn of a phenomenon. A series of precise elements that dictate the success of a piece of content. The stars must align on the time of posting, platform, keywords, audio choices, etc. Take for instance this TikTok I posted of my then 4-year-old playing (read: being scared sh*tless) the game, Perfection. I just thought her reaction was funny and I had no idea this video would snowball into a mass online therapy session of millennials rehashing their childhood trauma caused by a 60 second puzzle game. The Content Director in me couldn’t help but try and figure out why this TikTok was a golden egg. I analyzed the video, I optimized the video, I reposted and shared, and try as I might I could not replicate the virality. It hadn’t happened before, and it hasn’t happened since. In fact, the video went so viral I had media platforms reaching out about syndicating my video. But you know who didn’t reach out to me? Hasbro. Others and I tagged them on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook – and nothing! While their team may have been sitting around a conference table trying to figure out how to make one of their brand videos could go viral – they missed out on a key opportunity to capitalize on a viral consumer video about their product.
It’s nearly impossible to replicate an organic viral event as a brand, there are just too many out-of-our-control variables. But here is what we can control: how we respond in the event a consumer video goes viral.
Back in December we had the exciting opportunity to ride the viral video wave for our client, Pet Naturals. On December 8, 2023 we were alerted that a TikTok with the Pet Naturals product, Busy Butter was picking up steam. The video was that of a tiny long-haired chihuahua snoozing to the song “Because I got High” by Afroman. The combination of adorable dog, funny music, and hilarious captions made this video an instant hit. Although we would never have created such an irreverent video as the brand, the Pet Naturals team decided they were comfortable leaning into the moment.
We could have liked and commented once and called it a day – but we decided to test the “all in” approach by fully immersing ourselves in the platform. We not only responded to the video, but our team spent 3 days responding to all user questions and comments about the product. We made very specific and trending video responses to the viral video that we later turned into ads. And we surprised and delighted the consumer with custom gifts and products for their pup. For 3 days we watched the video continue to gain traction including being reposted by Barstool sports. All in all, we saw a massive uptick in sales, new followers, and awareness of the brand, far more than we would have if we created the original video ourselves.
Here are some of the results of that one video:
341k TikTok video views (up 27k%)
38k TikTok profile views (up 127k%)
4,153 new followers on Pet Naturals TikTok
23.7 million views on consumer’s original video
38.1 thousand comments on consumer’s original video
4.6 million likes consumer’s original video
61.5k likes on the Pet Naturals comment on consumer’s original video
Riding the wave of someone else’s viral moment gave us the opportunity to gain awareness among new customers and build a kind of trust you just can’t get when the message is coming from the brand. If we hadn’t had a team that was willing to take a chance on this type of community engagement we wouldn’t’ have gotten the results we did.