There have been a number of YouTube shows in recent history that seem to have gone viral overnight, gaining mainstream media attention and press coverage. The founders of these shows are attracting a lot of attention both online and offline and a lot of people wonder how many of them cope with the fame of going viral. Many people want to be famous, impatiently waiting for their time to shine (Bros made the perfect song for this situation), but many don’t know how to handle the attention when it comes.
Some YouTubers like Jackie Aina have been gaining traction for a while, getting the views consistently and she definitely knows how to navigate the system. However YouTube shows like BK Chat London or personalities like Elijah Quashie AKA The Chicken Connoisseur seem to blow up almost overnight (although Quashie’s channel had been online for at least a year before going viral). These shows have come under scrutiny recently gaining negative press from misjudged and at times excessively offensive show inclusions. Whilst I will not go into the details of the negative press I wanted to share some advice for anyone who is using any form of social media to make a name for themselves.
Be prepared: If you have absolutely any intention of being well known for what you do then you need to be ready for the consequences of fame. You don’t need to look far to see what the impact of fame is, it can be amazing but it can also be man-made torture. Prepare yourself for the exposure even if it has not happened yet. In this day and age fame no longer comes in the traditional form. You can get famous from a YouTube video, a meme, a tweet about your work. So you need to be ready which means that you might need to invest in media training, are you ready for your first media interview once you go viral?
Self-Audit: Literally research yourself and check your social media history. Some of those Facebook status updates and tweets that you thought were funny in 2008 might be seen as highly offensive in 2017. Make sure you undertake a social media audit, especially if your thoughts and mindset has changed. Some people have been “dragged” on social media for jokes they made years ago even if they have changed and seen the light now but because the internet doesn’t forget you need to spring clean. Also research the people who are in your social circle, particularly the people who want to be part of your viral journey and show discernment once you do become popular. There are going to be lots of people coming out of the wood works suddenly trying to align themselves with you or guilt you into helping them so you need to be aware and cautious. I really like this example featuring Bernie Mac on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Do not be desperate: Don’t jump at the first invite to a major mainstream media interview. The bigger the platform or channel the better it might seem at the time but over exposure can open up a can of worms. If you have a sustainable brand and a strategy you can assess what will work for you, those media platforms will still be there. I would also recommend that you offer an exclusive to your friends who are on the rise. For example get some of your close friends with blogs or who are trying to break into journalism to profile you first. Use your fame to help your circle. The media will use you so you need to use it.
Own up to your skeletons: I would say that you shouldn’t make fame your priority if you have more skeletons in the closet than a graveyard. What I mean by this is that you have to be able to face up to each and every ghost from the past. If there are any skeletons that can end your career before it’s even really started, perhaps you should consider your journey or work on developing a thick skin and knowing how to cope with any criticisms. You can also be guilty by association even if it’s a distant relative who is the problem their skeletons will become your skeletons. Once you are famous your name is used for headlines. Unless of course, you are proud of the skeletons (even the nasty,rotten, festering ones) then I guess this mini PR lesson is not for you.
Deal with a crisis: I made a video about handling a PR crisis and have written about it before so I won’t spend too much time on this point but you really need to understand how to deal with a crisis because the bigger your brand becomes the bigger the crises might be.
I hope this piece has helped someone – feel free to get in touch if you need more advice on how to deal with fame after going viral.