• Last week I had the opportunity to speak at Women’s AM, a gathering of local business women who meet for breakfast once a month. They asked me, generally, to talk about social media. It’s a big topic and I decided to focus on what it means to be successful with social media.

    Success in social media depends on effective content. For content to really connect with clients, customers and key audiences, it has to resonate.  And if content resonates in a big way, it will go viral. Viral, unfortunately, can’t be planned. It happens, and when it happens the results are usually unexpected.

    Sean Smith, my colleague and friend from Campbell River is navigating the turbulent waters of instant online success after his personal Facebook rant about BC Ferries went viral last week. Being a social media coach, Sean is better equipped than most to deal with the overwhelming results of one tiny little post, but there was no way he could anticipate the online outpouring and reaction his “Dear BC Ferries” post generated.

    He was sitting at the breakfast table, thinking about his frustration with the BC Ferries system and he decided to post his thoughts while eating his Cheerios.  His post hit a nerve and he had 4000 likes and 1800 shares by dinnertime – and comments, lots and lots of comments.

    By day two, the phone started ringing and news reporters were calling. To date. Smith has had more than twenty media interviews, and estimates total likes and shares in the 90,000 range and guesses there are close to a million views.


    I know Sean, and he does not shy away from the spotlight. At the same time, he’s become part of what he describes as “Joan of Arc syndrome”. Says Smith, “I am now the focal point of everybody’s expectations and the unintended leader of the pack.”

    Sean doesn’t know where the pack is going. He has no agenda beyond keeping the conversation going and hoping it leads to change.  As That Social Media Guy he both teaches and preaches the power of social media to create meaningful dialogue and promote change.  His viral rant brings both huge expectations and a huge opportunity to extend engagement on the topic.

    In response, Smith has launched a Dear BC Ferries Facebook page devoted to conversation about change in the BC Corporation, and promoting the #bumsinseats hashtag. As a result of Smith’s post, the BC Ferries page went from 800 visits to 8000 within a week.

    Social media success indeed. The spin-off potential for BC Ferries and for related businesses that seize the opportunity could be significant.

    Smith’s story is partly inspirational and partly a cautionary tale. As he says “You can’t plan viral. It happens, but when it happens it’s important to have a strategy in place for how to deal with it.”

    Based on his example, I’ll continue to coach clients to look for ways to resonate and engage with large audiences to promote products, services and ideas and at the same time I’ll caution them to be prepared sudden success.