Do you remember the viral spreading of Dave Caroll’s video “United breaks guitars”? It was one of the first big viral threats companies still fear nowadays. The good thing, we can learn from the past and since "United breaks Guitars" a lot of these kinds of threats happened to a lot of companies. Classical example is also the KitKat ad which Greenpeace used to make aware of the problem that Nestle used palm oil. These problems can appear on a daily basis, but it's important to know what influence them and how to treat them.
The main factors that led to the viral spreading
Other factors included that it was a novelty to complain about a company in public and it was a human interest which he combined with good music. A similar case which included human interest was the “Dell Hell”. Jarvis wrote about his problems with Dell in his blog and many consumers understood it because they had faced similar negative situations with Dell’s customer service.
Another driving factor to propagate messages online are celebrities, who have a big fan base on social media platforms. Kevin Smith, a Hollywood movie producer, needed two seats on a plane and tweeted about it. His 1.6 million followers had a big impact on spreading his words. In the United case, Carroll’s friends tweeted the video directly to people who already suffered from United, as well as to famous persons in the media.
Additional factors can include a societal impact which shows the case about ministerial salaries in Singapore. Domino’s case shows two employees who mistreated ingredients before placing them on the pizza in a video on YouTube which was of relevance to the public and to regulations. In general, negative messages are shared more likely than positive.
Besides motivational factors, the media play a vital role in propagating and pushing messages towards the public. However, it seems that the sender of a message does not play a vital role in propagating a message. It can be a user who acts out of personal interest like Carroll, an intentional act of a company such as Greenpeace against Kit Kat or a company’s own message which is misinterpreted by the audience such as Kelloggs.
How to react?
There is no right or wrong because every situation is different. You won't find the answer in a book or in similar cases. However, it is good to know how other companies handled those kinds of situations. A really funny example of how to react to a Facebook rant can you see in the following video.