Let me be the first to say that viral content doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of work…and even more luck. In no way do I consider myself an expert on viral content. In fact, this post could almost be seen as a fail. Well, a fail that (thankfully) turned into a win.
This case study is simply to help you if you ever face viral content of your own.
Here’s what happened: A client from our Veterinary Teaching Hospital posted a picture to our Facebook page explaining that her dog, Brutus, had no paws, and was coming to our hospital to learn how to use his new prosthetics.
Intrigued, I asked for more information from her. Laura, Brutus’ owner, and she explained that Brutus was born to a breeder who left him in freezing temperatures as a puppy for too long, causing Brutus to develop frostbite in all four paws. The breeder then attempted an at-home amputation on the puppy, leaving him maimed. Read more about Brutus’ story on Source.
While I didn’t know it at the time, this story would become CSU’s most widely publicized and viewed story. Ever. The story was publicized in all fifty states and across the world. On social media alone, the story was featured on the Facebook pages of TIME, Mashable, Buzzfeed Animals, and even trended on Facebook along with Kourtney Kardashian’s new baby. Our Vine video was embedded into stories, including Mashable’s story, and now has almost 400,000 loops (and counting).
The story reached 84 million people on social media, not including the millions more it reached on websites, in print, and on TV (including ABC World News Tonight).
Not to mention, I found great new friends in both Brutus and Laura.
Where do you start?
Content. Recognizing if your content has the potential to go viral is the most important step. Consider what users go to social media for: to be entertained, to be informed, and to connect with other people. If your content has the potential to appeal to a large audience, never discount it.
What made Brutus so appealing?
- According to the ASPCA, 37-47% of households own a dog. People identify with dogs.
- Brutus had a heart-wrenching story.
- Brutus had a happy ending.
How could we not have seen the potential virality here? Well, you never really know when something is going to go viral. So, the best thing you can be is prepared…which we were not.
How we got the story out there
We first posted the Brutus story to our CSU and College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences social media channels.
From there, we pitched the story to different animal organizations and news outlets on Twitter and Facebook.
We didn’t plan on pitching the story to traditional media until the next week, when we hopefully had a video package.
Here was a hard lesson we had to learn…
Make sure you have ALL of your assets prepared before pitching your story
Over the weekend, Brutus mania started to sweep over the nation. We knew Brutus’ story would be popular—but we weren’t prepared for it to go viral.
The first news outlet to pick up the story after we posted it to social media was a television outlet—they needed video, which we hadn’t included in our original story. Over the weekend, the news station reached out to Brutus’ owner, Laura, to film their own video package—and didn’t mention CSU.
As the only outlet in Colorado with video, other stations across the nation began using the video that had no mention to CSU—our message was getting away from us.
Here’s what we did
Immediately, photo/video requests came rolling into our office, and we took advantage of it. We made sure our own videographer met with Brutus and Laura, and we put a video package together that Monday, then pitched the story, photos AND video to traditional media.
Media across the nation were using our video and photos.
I also must give credit to Laura, Brutus’ owner, and her husband. Laura allowed CSU to handle all the media requests, which meant the media had to come through CSU to get to Laura. We gained back control of the message. Stories—and subsequently, social media posts—included mention of CSU.
Laura didn’t have to do this. Laura didn’t have to do any of this, really. At one point, there were five different media stations (probably 10+ people) in her house. All. Day. We just got really, really lucky that Laura and Brutus were the topic of discussion. Without their willingness, the story would not have gone nearly as far as it did.
And now, for your enjoyment, here are the top three puns to come from the coverage of Brutus’ story. (Whoever came up with these are GENIUS.)