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The Power of Viral for Your Social CRM

Viral tweets, videos and posts have the power to bring corporate executives to their knees and is good for your Social CRM. If you think that’s an overstatement, think about the following viral customer service catastrophes that befell two major corporations:

  • Bank of America’s interest rate scandal: In 2011, Bank of America decided to double the interest rate on Ann Minch’s loan. Not willing to pay such an outrageous increase, Minch unleashed a self-proclaimed “Debtors Revolt” on YouTube. As a result of the furor caused by her video, she was asked to make an appearance on a network TV news show.

    The PR was awful, and Bank of America relented, but not without a lot of bad press and a tidal wave of consumer protests. To date, the video has been viewed over half a million times.

  • Too fat to fly: In 2010, Southwest Airlines told movie maker Kevin Smith that he was “too fat to fly.” Airline staff insisted he exit the plane in which he was seated, citing safety concerns and a Customer of Size policy. He had originally purchased two seats, but got on an earlier flight that had only one remaining seat.

    Smith wasn’t going to take that sitting down. Unfortunately for Southwest, Smith is also a comedian with a huge Twitter following. After several nasty and funny tweets went viral, the airlines issued several apologies and offered Smith a $100 voucher.

    As you may expect, the offer was met with much derision and more funny tweets. All the major media outlets picked up this story of bad customer service, and Southwest ended up looking like a bully. Their handling of the situation clearly showed that they weren’t ready for a social media onslaught. Some thought about handling this type of fiasco was in order.

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Of course, not all stories that go viral are bad ones. Most people who plan marketing campaigns hope that their stories will go viral and bring recognition and revenue raining down upon them.

That’s certainly what happened to Susan Boyle, the Britain’s Got Talent TV-show contestant whose audition stirred the hearts of millions of viewers, but nothing about her video was planned. It was a happy accident, and many viral incidents are just that. The power of viral is a force to be reckoned with. It’s difficult to remember that YouTube launched in 2005, which isn’t that long ago.

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