Viral videos, statement remixes, and many other Internet memes come and go in the social media scene. The so-called memetic mutation of an event or action has mixed effects for a company or person, particularly if it’s done in a negative light. While its counterpart in traditional media is usually allowed to blow over, even minor Internet stories cannot be given this luxury; they spread fast, far, and wide, often becoming more ingrained into the public consciousness even after they have run their course.
Memesis is not unknown or always unwelcome in the world of public relations and marketing. Viral marketing and promotions have been used to create public images for many brands; particularly successful ones such as The Man Your Man Could Smell Like by Old Spice continue to thrive.
Exactly what action to take when faced with memetic mutation varies, depending on its effect on the company and on the nature of how it came about in the first place. Affectionate (if unflattering) memes can be completely harmless, with some people, such as writer and mythographer Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, embracing their memetic exaggerations in good spirits. However, highly negative content such as exceptionally poor employee behavior caught on tape should be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
Utilizing company social media assets to address the issue as it grows is a must. Many businesses would benefit from observing certain keywords using free metrics from service providers and launching an appropriate online reputation management campaign to counteract it. Companies and individuals must take the time to politely answer the queries of detractors while dealing with the issues that lead to them.
Projecting a responsible image in a time of crisis can, at the least, placate more rational detractors while leaving the person or company’s image intact. Care must also be taken in avoiding harsh, retaliatory language and action, which would only make things worse.
Viral content can make or break a company’s image on the Internet. Reacting to damaging viral content with swiftness, tact, and responsibility are keys to success in online reputation management.