So You Want to Go Viral…

If you have a hand in social media, you’ve probably dreamed of going viral. But have you considered what comes next? Getting thousands of likes, clicks and shares is only a first step. To maximize the opportunity, you’ll want to keep engaging your new audience and inspire them to act. 

In March of 2021, the small communications team at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund noticed their gorilla adoptions – a key part of their grassroots fundraising efforts – were suddenly going wild. Small-dollar donations go a long way toward supporting the Fossey Fund’s very successful field programs, and they work hard to ensure every single dollar raised is used to its full potential to conserve wildlife and habitats.   

A tip from a supporter alerted them that gorillas and the Fossey Fund were trending on one of Reddit’s most active and notable subreddits, r/WallStreetBets, the same group behind the GameStop and AMC Theaters “guerrilla” short-squeeze investing movements. In the lingo of the WSB community, “gorillas” and “apes” are common themes. 

The Fossey Fund team quickly pulled together a campaign to engage and leverage WSB’s sudden interest, and to translate it into meaningful fundraising, education and brand awareness. As part of our pro-bono work for the Fossey Fund, Spring Green contributed media relations and social media strategy to the campaign, which was recently recognized in PR News’ national nonprofit awards program as one of the best fundraising campaigns of the year. 

Here’s how the Fossey Fund made the most of this opportunity – and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in just over a week. 

Act fast. On social media, what’s trending today is passe tomorrow. The communications team wasted no time, working over the weekend to strategize and begin to engage this new audience. 

Speak their language. The Fossey Fund’s CEO made two videos – one from the U.S. and one from the field in Rwanda – disseminated on Reddit and Twitter. She thanked Wall Street Bets for the adoptions and provided status updates on fundraising, using financial terms to explain to these investors how their donations would “pay dividends” and have an “ROI” for the planet. 

Offer bespoke opportunities. Within days, the Fossey Fund designed and released a limited-edition t-shirt to commemorate WSB’s motto “Apes Together Strong.” The shirts sold out almost immediately. They also created new, custom adoptions that provided additional fundraising fuel. 

Engage the media with behind-the-scenes details. The Fossey Fund released a Twitter thread giving the inside account of how the viral adoptions transpired. It was widely quoted by news media. They also reached out to reporters and outlets that had been covering the Wall Street Bets GameStop story, resulting in coverage in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, the Ellen Show, Fortune, The Hill, Vice, Now This and People Magazine. 

Show-and-tell the results. The Fossey Fund let their WSB followers know exactly how the funds raised in the campaign would be put to use in the field. Connecting the dots between the donations and on-the-ground work helped to engage this new audience long after viral clicks faded away. 

News coverage reached more than 3,000,000 million readers, and earned at least 75,000 social shares and 86,000 views on YouTube. One of the top executives at Reddit, where the trending adoptions began, posted the t-shirt sale with commentary praising the Fossey Fund/Spring Green team: “…and this is a BRILLIANT move on the part of @TheDianFosseyGorillaFund after all of the r/WallStreetBets donation and love!” 

by Melissa Mathews