Under the right circumstances, a good idea can go viral in no time.

When the Carolina Hurricanes broke a 10-year playoff drought this year, its social media team was along for the ride.

By capitalizing on content marketing (and with a little help from their friends), the ‘Canes scored a social media hat trick: they increased their base, enhanced their reputation and earned a few extra bucks with their marketing efforts.

Here’s how they did it:

First, they had some advantages that most small businesses do not have. They already had a fairly large following. The social media team, led by Dan LaTorraca, director of digital marketing, capitalized on the team’s post-scoring celebration–known as the ‘Storm Surge’–and a mild insult from hockey commentator Don Cherry to pull off the rest.

With a social media coordinator in the audience to capture the scoring celebrations–which ranged from mimicking a walk-off home run to a limbo contest and more–and an unlikely late-season surge that saw the ‘Canes go 17-7-1 down the stretch, the Hurricanes had all the makings of an underdog success story. When Cherry referred to the team as “a bunch of jerks,” it was icing on the rink–with no penalty involved.

Instead, the team added ‘bunch of jerks’ to their twitter profile and liked any comments that referred to Cherry’s comments–without making any of their own. They got the marketing team involved and made up t-shirts.

The Hurricanes could not completely pull off their underdog story. They were swept by the Boston Bruins in the second round. But the social media team scored some major points. LaTorraca published a growth chart that tracked their three major channels and members of the team reached out to have the social media gurus create some thank you messages for their fans.

So what does that mean for your business? It shows the perfect recipe for success.

  1. They had a plan. “The more planning you do in advance, the easier it is to adjust on the fly,” LaTorraca said. “and we do a lot of planning in advance.”
  2.  They remembered the ‘little spaces,’ and used every character to their advantage, by incorporating ‘a bunch of jerks’ into their twitter bio.
  3. They used influencers to spread their story, by liking tweets from others, rather than putting their own response out.
  4.  They followed some of their fans, putting the ‘social’ back into social media
  5.  They got marketing involved to create a catchy t-shirt
  6.  They used twitter to direct traffic back to their main web site and social media channels.
  7.  Finally, they brought the campaign to a close by thanking everyone who was responsible.

A similar plan can work for your business–you don’t even need Don Cherry or a goal-scoring celebration to get it going.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!