“We have been highlighting our NICU babies on Halloween for some time now,” said Shaylyn. “It's always a great moment to showcase because the NICU nurses are so passionate and involved, and it's just as special for the parents. Our NICU team has a really good time putting everything together. Then, we do the work on our part putting it on social and make it a special time for the families.”
But this year was different (and extra special): The post went viral.
Within less than 24 hours, their post had received 3,800 comments, 49,500 shares, and 14,000 reactions — which Emily and Shaylyn described as an unprecedented initial response to their content.
Their final numbers were even more exceptional. On Facebook, the post garnered 7,500 comments, over 85,000 shares, and 29,000 reactions to date. In total, the post had a reach of more than 11.7 million.
“Last year our post did really well, but its reach was only half a million,” said Emily. “So the success we saw from this one was really unbelievable.”
According to Emily, they had already made preparations to try and increase engagement with this year's post before they sent it out.
“For these campaigns, our social leads at Henry Ford Hospital are crucial in the development of the content. In this particular case, the admins, Rose Tokatlian and Emily Wicker, worked with the NICU Team to coordinate photos, then developed the posts for each platform,” explained Emily. “We specifically planned to have a question in the post this year.”
“We had people commenting based on the question. And that all counted as engagement, so we were able to engage back with those comments,” said Emily. “That helped a lot with playing to Facebook's algorithm, and we think that helped the post go viral.”
Emily and Shaylyn's team made sure to respond to each comment in real time — especially in the first few hours. “Even if someone was tagging someone else's name, we would like it or respond with an emoji just to make sure we were keeping up with our audience and feeding into the algorithm.”
Emily and Shaylyn said responding to everyone was not only important for the algorithm, but also was in line with their organizational values.
Their team worked to reorganize their schedule to make sure they were still responding to everyone as the post gained more traction.
“We have an on-call team for after-hours work on social — and that is generally just one person,” said Emily. “But we made sure to give them extra support so that we could continue responding to every comment that came through on the post.”
“People were sharing such powerful stories and memories and responding so positively, that it was important to us to engage with them in that way and support them as well,” explained Shaylyn. “And we had a lot of pictures and success stories from people who had children who used to be in the NICU, which gave the parents and families of our NICU babies hope.”
The next morning, someone from People Magazine contacted them and asked to feature the post.
The team wanted to move on the offer immediately, but they were also careful to be considerate of the NICU families that were featured in their original post.
“We had all the patient families or their parents sign an agreement so that they could be featured on social media when we first were putting the post together,” said Emily. “But when People wanted to pick it up, we wanted to contact all of those patient families again to get the green light. We risked losing the story, but more importantly, we felt it was the right thing to do. Ultimately, it may have helped the post gain more traction because it alerted the parents to what was going on so they could share that article as well.”
In their article, People Magazine also linked back to Henry Ford Health System's original post — which Emily and Shaylyn didn't expect. “I was so glad that we were really happy with the look and the feel of the post and how it was phrased — and that's a huge testament to Emily and Rose, our social admins,” said Shaylyn.
Emily and Shaylyn shared that, while their team had expected the post to do well, they never expected it to resonate and gain as much traction as it did.
They shared that, while they spend a lot of time on every post, it's hard to know which post will end up getting more reach than you anticipate. “So really putting a lot of care and detail into every post is so important,” said Emily. “If something is picked up, you want what you've put forth to be something you're really proud of and can stand behind.”
“But what happened with this post also really shows that when you take the time to engage and really be genuine, it can help something grow,” added Shaylyn.
Emily and Shaylyn also emphasized that a big part of why they think the post went viral is because of the teamwork across the organization.
They said one thing they were really proud of throughout the process was the teamwork that they saw with everyone they were working with — from the NICU team to their internal and after-hours team — and how quickly everybody moved from start to finish.
“Without that teamwork and the amazing work that our NICU team did, we would never have been able to pull off this campaign — or have responded like we did,” said Emily. “We're so grateful that the social admins at Henry Ford Hospital not only created such powerful content, but worked as quickly and efficiently as they did to get the necessary sign-off for People. This was truly an example of teamwork at its finest from all involved.”
They shared that the whole experience — and the response to the post — really showed the power of social in a positive way.
“It really reminded me of why we do what we do,” Emily said.
For anyone managing a viral post — or working to make their posts as successful as possible — they advise being very purposeful in how you handle and set up the post.
They also shared that, for them, the post was very timely — and that worked to their advantage. “If you have some really good content that you're working on, it's okay to sit on it until the time is right,” said Shaylyn. “Timing is everything.”