Look outside your company’s walls and consider all the ways in which your campaign can backfire. And recognize that if something does go wrong, it’s likely to do so in a big, highly visible way.
Be transparent and true. Think of social media as a combination worldwide spy network/high-tech truth detector. It might take a while, but people (or brands) who pretend they’re something they’re not online always get caught eventually. Lonelygirl15 had a pretty good run, but even she ultimately was uncovered as the creation of a television production company. It took far less time for the guy behind alliwantforxmasisapsp.com to be unmasked as a professional blogger hired by Sony. If you’re concerned that the truth coming out will damage your brand, start with the truth up front. There are no secrets in cyberspace.
Say your mea culpas. The best-laid schemes of mice, men, and marketers often go askew. And when they do, there’s nothing more ridiculous than pretending everything is OK. If a campaign fouls up, it’s best to fess up quickly—and repeat as needed. Sony screwed up with alliwantforxmasisapsp.com, but the statement it released in the aftermath recouped some brownie points:
"Busted. Nailed. Snagged. As many of you have figured out (maybe our speech was a little too funky fresh???), Peter isn’t a real hip-hop maven and this site was actually developed by Sony. Guess we were trying to be just a little too clever. From this point forward, we will just stick to making cool products, and use this site to give you nothing but the facts on the PSP." —Sony Computer Entertainment America
In the social media space, laughter can cleanse a multitude of sins.
Make it last. By its nature, viral is fleeting. People might continue to enjoy a joke or revisit a video of roller babies from time to time, but once they’ve passed them on to all their friends, they are unlikely to resend the same material a second time. As soon as you release a viral campaign, be sure an equally infectious follow-up is in the works. Contagion is good.
Marian Salzman is CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America. Named one of the world’s top five trendspotters, Salzman is best known for launching metrosexual mania in 2003, but she also created several other buzzes, including “the rise of singletons,” “It’s America Online,” Europe’s cyberspoon, globesity and “sleep is the new sex.” Author or co-author of 15 books, including Next Now and The Future of Men, she currently blogs on the Huffington Post, for the World Future Society, and at eurorscgpr.comand eurorscgsocial.com.