Business Gone Viral: How Can Small Businesses Thrive Under Sudden Demand?

By Dr Thivashini B Jaya Kumar and Dr Thanuja Rathakrishnan

Due to the rise of social media marketing, word-of-mouth marketing and viral campaigns are the main method through which many businesses are gaining fast recognition and exposure. 

With the ease of sharing links and engaging with content through comments, likes, and follows, viral marketing seems like an opportunity waiting to unfold. 

The word ‘viral’ is a term commonly seen on social media, but what does it mean? 

A content may go viral over time but creating and sustaining a presence, measuring engagement, and converting social media leads into customers can be very tricky. 

Moreover, if entrepreneurs are not careful in their marketing gimmicks, they could be getting more than they have bargained for. 

When Local Brands Go Global

Malaysian brands are no strangers to the concept of viral marketing. When viral content comes to mind, we think of videos and content that goes beyond the boundaries of targeted demographics, content that is unambiguously well known and recognised by anyone. 

Examples such as heart-warming videos celebrating yearly festivities and special occasions pierces through the hearts of Malaysians, garnering massive amounts of engagement and organic views across social media platforms with minimal marketing budget. 

Catchphrases timed with widely acknowledged events are also an effective way of communicating your brand to the masses. 

However, it is not a big surprise when widely recognised brands go viral, as large companies have the support of creative and advertising agencies to strategically connect their brand with the mass audience. 

Therefore, the viral contents are intentional and foreseen. But the question here is – what happens to small brands when their business goes viral by accident?

Watershed Moment

Businesses need to rethink their business model to accommodate rapid expansion. It is a common story: one day a business is celebrating viral success then suddenly, it is struggling to meet new needs and demands. 

Small businesses frequently experience growing pains as they expand. Even though expanding business due to a rise in demand can be challenging, it is worthwhile to go through the hardship. 

Here are some actions small businesses may take to meet high demands:

Communicate with your customers

Communication is essential in any business relationship, but it becomes even more critical when your product or service takes off. 

The most common blunder a business owner commits is failing to notify customers on delays or waiting until it is too late to inform

But in any circumstances, be honest with your customers. Lowering their expectations to match the realities on the ground is vastly preferable to making a promise and then breaking it. Scaling is an option, but you do not want to be on the incorrect side of it.

Concentrate on core competencies

The best way to expand quickly is to focus on the business core competencies as it will help you meet the increasing demand. 

Find the main cause and core area for why your product or content gained widespread popularity. 

Nevertheless, be conscious of your limitations. How many additional workers can you add while maintaining the same level of product costs and quality? 

How much demand can your product manage before prices get out of hand, and what is its manufacturing capacity? What alternative logistics do you have? 

Making good use of crisis: Turning business challenges into opportunities 

When small businesses are at the peak of their popularity, this would catch the attention of other businesses. 

Small businesses can leverage on the momentum by focusing on collaborations and networking with industry partners. 

The likelihood of industry partners responding will be at its highest during periods of peak popularity. 

Small businesses will have the potential in responding to viral growth, retain momentum, and stand good chances of business growth and expansion through networking with industry partners. 

Additionally, outsourcing allows small businesses to easily scale up. Short-term outsourcing is typically more cost-effective and efficient as it may be completed more quickly. 

Therefore, small businesses might outsource certain products or tasks before assembling a team of qualified individuals. This will allow small businesses to meet current demands quickly.

Invest for improvement and future

Ineffective web presence is one of the main problems that small businesses deal with. Small businesses may have questions like “Do my business have a website that is SEO optimised? “, “Can my business website manage the increasing traffic?” and “Does it use responsive design?”.

As a small business, having few resources is the norm rather than the exception. A business’ lifeblood is its capital and cash flow, which give it operating funds as well as space to grow and develop.

When your business starts to expand quickly and you need to scale up right away, it is crucial to both outsource and look for funding. Investing in business through funding enables one to take advantage of numerous chances that were previously impossible due to restricted resources.

For instance, you will be able to invest in new IT hardware or a website that is more effective so that you have all the resources necessary to upgrade your internal infrastructure.

Going viral can be a goldmine for small businesses, so being prepared for the eventuality is crucial. 


About the writers:



Dr Thivashini B Jaya Kumar and Dr Thanuja Rathakrishnan are Lecturers for the School of Management and Marketing at Taylor’s Business School, Faculty of Business and Law, Taylor’s University. Taylor’s Business School is the leading private business school in Malaysia & Southeast Asia based on the 2022 QS World University Rankings by Subject.

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