On this blog, we often highlight stories of social media disasters, when a careless Facebook post or an erroneous link posted on Twitter lead to major PR crises for companies and individuals. Today, however, we’ll talk about a rare occasion when a mistake on social media produced a positive outcome.

On Monday night, as the nation grappled with the tragedy of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, NPR Editor Christopher Hopkins published a somewhat mysterious post on NPR’s official Facebook page:

Realizing that he accidentally used the station’s account for what was intended to be published on his personal page, Hopkins deleted his original post twelve minutes later saying:

But as it often happens in the world of social media, twelve minutes was enough for the Ramona post to go viral and be re-shared with thousands of people across different networks. People began tweeting at NPR and commenting on its Facebook post asking for more updates about Ramona.

Is @NPR‘s now-edited “Ramona” post about a cat or a human child? #RamonaUpdates

— Jordan Kush (@jordankkush) October 3, 2017

Suddenly, several Ramona hashtags began trending on Twitter: #Ramona#ramonaupdates#bringbackramona#ramonaforever. Even the Houston Zoo couldn’t resist joining the conversation:

It is notoriously difficult to identify what makes certain posts go viral, but in this case several different factors were clearly at play. Quirky and unexpected, the decidedly lighthearted post offered people an emotional respite from the tragic news of the day. Even though it wasn’t meant for NPR, the Ramona post was well written and just mysterious enough to pique people’s interest and make them want to learn more about its subject.

Realizing that Hopkins’ mistake actually opened a positive PR opportunity for the station, the NPR team embraced the story and even highlighted the whole ordeal in a separate article.

And yes, they did finally reveal Ramona’s true identity. She wasn’t a cat after all…

Photo: Christopher Dean Hopkins

As a company specializing in crisis communications, the Red Banyan team knows that most social media mistakes are not so adorable. So, if you or someone you know needs professional help in dealing with a public relations crisis or would like to ensure that one doesn’t occur in the future, feel free to call us at 954-379-2115.