Two cents blog

The viral victims

by Gemma Boucher on 14 March 2017

Every now and then a truly ‘viral’ video comes along. This weekend was one such example. An unsuspecting Political Science Professor, Robert Kelly, gave a live interview on the BBC when he was unwillingly video-bombed by his two children. If you haven’t seen the clip, watch it below. It is genuinely hilarious – the baby zooming in had me in tears! It’s the first non-celebrity video I’ve noticed in a while that literally spread like wildfire (12 million views and counting). I rarely share content but had to send this to all of my Mum friends and within a few hours my Facebook feed was completely full of friends, groups and news organisations commenting on the story.

 

But, whilst the majority of posts were in good humour and sympathetic to the poor guy doing the interview, the story got its fair share of negative attention. It got me thinking about the darker side of the worldwide web and how quickly a story in the spotlight can become overly judgemental and critical with no consideration for the feelings of the people in it. Robert Kelly was criticised almost immediately by many as having ‘pushed’ the toddler aggressively out the way and a big debate surfaced about racial prejudice given many assumed the woman bursting in at the end of the video to remove the kids was a nanny not his wife.

As with all internet sensations, this story will become old news in a few days but I can’t help but spare a thought for Robert Kelly’s family and how these judgements may have affected them. Too often, the internet removes filters that in real life would be very much intact. It’s easy to hide behind the screen and share our opinions with little to no consideration of their impact.  We’re all pretty good at thinking before we speak. Why is it so much harder to think before we type?

So, I guess it’s not surprising that when it comes to content created by businesses and brands, the online community seems to be even more ready to jump in and express their feelings and opinions. It’s fair game as far as they’re concerned. The recent Department of Finance video and Coopers’ ‘Keeping it Light’ are both recent examples.  For the DOF, an innocently produced recruitment video became the laughing stock of the internet within hours. And news sources today are reporting pubs are taking Coopers off their taps following content posted on the topic of same-sex marriage.

The upshot is that whether you’re a person being interviewed, or a brand posting a video, there is always the potential for you to become the next viral victim.

How do you avoid this? Of course, as Robert Kelly discovered, it’s difficult to predict anything when there’s young children involved! But for brands communicating online, it’s worth taking time to think, plan and evaluate all possible reactions.

Gemma Boucher is a Group Account Director at BCM

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