Editor’s note: Adam Rhew works with social media marketing firm Three Ships Media in Raleigh.

RALEIGH, N.C. – We needed something to replace the groundhog.

The giant whiteboard in our creative suite was outdated. Punxsutawney Phil had seen his shadow, Groundhog Day was over, and we needed something to replace the cartoon groundhog who had been staring at us for a couple weeks. The groundhog drawing, itself just seasonal filler, was a fleeting replacement of something else, an easy way to eliminate some white space and live up to our reputation as quirky creative types.

So we decided to make a little chart explaining social media through donuts. We put our minds together and then our creative director, Nuno Gomes, scribbled it out. Doug Ray, a multimedia producer here, snapped a photo with Instagram and posted it on Facebook and Twitter. We had a beer, a good laugh, and went home for the weekend.

Since then, nearly 100,000 people have ‘liked’ it on Facebook, and thousands of people have Tweeted about it. We weren’t trying to make anything cute or funny.

We just needed something to replace the groundhog.

Besides totally blowing our minds, the whole thing has been a good reminder about some best practices in online earned media execution.

You Never Know When Something Will Go Viral

We didn’t set out to make this go viral. It was Friday afternoon and we needed to blow off some steam. You just can’t plan viral.

Let Go of the Reins

We didn’t care about offending anyone nor did we care that this had been done before using something much less palatable than donuts (Good artists copy and great artists steal — or something like that). Sometimes controversy can be a good thing. And the only way to get there is through complete creative control. Sometimes, you have to let go of the reins to give your creative partners room to work.

Sometimes the Best Ideas are the Easiest

There are plenty of projects that can and should require hours of work. But sometimes the best ideas – and the most successful – are ones that fly off the hand. We used donuts because we had just been talking about a weekend road race in which participants ran two miles, ate 12 glazed Krispy Kremes, and ran another two miles. The whole thing took us all of five minutes.

Low Tech is OK

Sure, we could have whipped up something in Illustrator or Final Cut Pro. But in this case, the low-tech, lo-fi approach worked. Why make life more complicated than it needs to be?

After all, we just needed to replace the groundhog.

(C) Three Ships Media

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