How Not to Achieve Overnight Social Media Success

Want Overnight Success On Social Media? Here’s How Not To Do It


If I had a dollar for every time a business owner told me they wanted our team to create a viral video or other piece of catchy content so they could become an overnight success on social media, I would be a very rich woman indeed.

But – unfortunately for my bank account! – creating overnight success on social media is far easier said than done. I can’t fault business owners for their desire. On some level, every business owner wants to be the day’s big topic of conversation on social media. There’s no denying that the right kind of buzz can mean a serious bump in your brand visibility, which can lead to higher sales.

However, not all buzz is positive. One of my favorite stories that got all kinds of coverage on social media – almost 82,000 people engaged with the story within two hours of it being posted – centered on one of my pet topics: the need for development websites to test new features and functionality before you take the changes live.

Here’s What Happened

The Chicago Tribune was changing their website. Instead of testing their changes on a development site, the changes immediately went live, and as Gizmodo reported, for 16 minutes, the venerable newspaper’s homepage featured an adorable gray kitten and a paragraph that read “test test test test test.”

Now, cute cat pictures are a tried and true way to get attention on the internet. If you want to create viral content, cute cats are a proven best practice. However, this attention is not at all what the Chicago Tribune was looking for. Even though a representative of the paper graciously played along with the Gizmodo story, commenting “Thank you, Brian, for using the words wonderful and glorious to describe our glitch. Even dog lovers weren’t upset. We do apologize, and we’re working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” there’s no doubt that this is not how the Chicago Tribune wanted their overnight social media success story to play out.

So to recap, be careful what you wish for. Overnight social media success might not be everything you’re hoping for. We’re a schadenfreude-driven culture that revels in other people’s mistakes. That might not be the type of visibility you want.

Instead of focusing on overnight social media success, consider a strategy that steadily builds strong, meaningful relationships with your customers and fans – the people who love it when everything goes right, not the crowds that rejoice when everything goes wrong. It takes longer, but you’ll enjoy the results more.

And oh yeah – development sites are a good thing. A very good thing indeed.

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