Last week everyone was talking about Applebees and its very public firing of a waitress. This week a lot of people are talking about GoDaddy’s superbowl ad, and they have a lot to say.
What they have to say is not good, and it reveals the flaw in “going viral” in social media.
The long-held myth of press and viral
The GoDaddy social media viral campaign was designed to go viral, and the Applebees’ situation was an Internet backlash against a company act. In other words, not planned.
We’ve all heard the old adage that all press is good press, and I’ve heard many, many businesses say, “Let’s use social media, create a Great Marketing Thing and go viral.”
To quote the brilliant Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
In the real world we do all we can to prevent viruses; we consider them a bad thing. And sometimes, they’re a bad thing online, too.
When something goes viral it means it spreads fast–really, really fast. It reaches a lot of eyes, ears, and minds (sometimes). That sounds desirable. But…
- do you have adequate resources to manage all of the response, demand, and feedback?
- are you prepared to manage all that comes along, good and bad?
- is your infrastructure in place to service all gained (and lost) business?
- is your brand manager as well as communications team ready to support and maintain your brand’s reputation?
- do all of your online properties have adequate information (for those who are smart enough to check) and space for contact and feedback?
GoDaddy prepared their customer feedback page to accept all of the very many comments, and at quick scan, it’s largely negative. In fact a lot of it is customers’ vows to move their business elsewhere.
Yesterday, one customer wrote, “I’ve been a Go Daddy customer for many years but that ended tonight after seeing the Go Daddy Super Bowl commercial. It was in very poor taste and unprofessional.”
Another wrote, “As a customer and (PAST) frequent endorser of the wonderful service you provide the Perfect Match advertisement during the Super Bowl was an embarrassment. Fire the ad firm. Going forward I will go elsewhere for hosting and will let my current hosting accounts expire.”
Even more powerfully, a third wrote, “I’ve been with Go Daddy for YEARS and have endured the horrific ads you’ve featured the past several years. It seems each time you are going for shock value and hoping the buzz about it somehow converts to actual sales. However, last night’s ad was the final straw for me. It was so offensive and over-the-top that — thankfully — the buzz you’re receiving now is so bad, you are even hemorrhaging customers.
I realize that there will be costs involved for me to transfer all the domains I have with GoDaddy to another registrar, but I am willing to pay those costs to no longer be associated with a company insistent on pushing such cringe-worthy commercials. I mean, it’s gotten to the point that, if someone asked me who I have my domains registered with, I’d be embarrassed to say “GoDaddy.com.”
What “going viral” can actually mean for your business
Always known as a “devil may care” brand with an insouciant approach to their reputation, GoDaddy has frequently pushed the envelope for the reward of going viral. Eventually, though, customers begin to associate their negative feelings about the disturbing and unprofessional ad with the brand. It’s no longer hip and edgy, instead now it’s a problem.
Ultimately, GoDaddy is likely to survive. However, customer migration will shore up and strengthen their competition. That’s not usually the objective of an advertising and marketing campaign. It’s also something that could demolish a small business.
No business wants to lose anything from their fragile bottom lines.
And yet, research has shown, “Just seven bad tweets, Facebook posts or product reviews could make potential customers think the worst about your business, and eight comments will make them consider boycotting your brand.”
More importantly, the negative impression is very sticky over the long-term, “45% [of consumers] could recall a negative social media post about a business in the past six months.”
Applebees is facing this very issue now, with tens of thousands of negative comments, after not just the public firing of a waitress, but its bizarre social media meltdown. This essay shows it very well, and adds a wise word of caution about the permanence of the Internet and the need for ever ready brand crisis communication.
The real plan your business needs for “going viral”
Deliberate or accidental, when or if your brand goes viral your company needs to be prepared and ready, including for how to handle the flip side (the negative). As desirable and appealing as going viral might seem, it’s (a) very hard to actually achieve, (b) likely to happen spontaneously and unexpectedly, (c) probably going to involve something unplanned, and (d) probably going to tax resources more than your company anticipates. If your team is not ready and able to handle it well, prepare for the backlash.
What’s much better is a strategic and well-planned digital marketing effort that consistently grows a solid brand and steadily expanding business for your company. Aim for a great business plan, integrated marketing, and highly professional digital outreach. The plan you should have for “going viral” is a “how to manage” plan if it ever happens to your business.