Tiger bread

How the Sainsbury’s Customer Service Letter went viral; my theory

I am sure you’ve all seen the lovely Sainsbury’s customer service letter that was doing the rounds in the social media world today. I’ve been doing a bit of digging around to try to understand how the story went viral; here’s my theory.

If you Google ‘Sainsbury’s Customer Service Letter’ you’ll find 420,000 search results; some are related to the Tiger Bread story, others aren’t. If you look at the date when the articles were posted, you’ll quickly find out that the Sainsbury’s Customer Service story in fact broke out in June 2011.

In June 2011, little Lily’s mum, blogged about the customer service letter, which was then picked up by a number of blogs, and the usual suspects (including forums), in the UK and beyond. The story of course trended at the time, and died down, as you would expect, after a few days.


So how on earth did that story resurface in January 2012? 

I first spotted the photo of the letters on Facebook this morning which I promptly re-shared on my wall… Between 2 users Parker Lim and Jai (see screengrab below) we’re looking at 38K shares, and 120K likes so far… that’s pretty impressive.


Somehow, somewhere, Parker Lim spotted that picture and shared it on Facebook, but the second ‘Power Facebook User’,  Jai, mentioned in one of his comments that he spotted the pictures kicking about on Twitter on 23rd January.


 Looking at how content spreads 

As you can see from the graph below, there’s a clear spike in mentions around 18th-19th January, followed by another spike around 23rd-24th January. The initial spike was caused by Parker Lim’s Facebook share (arguably). The second spike is much bigger, as the story started leaking out of Facebook, onto the Internet.



I did a quick Twitter search and identified this Tweet linking back to a Bitter Wallet post written in June 2011 as the fire starter. Then, a number of other Twitterers with high (marketing) influence such Contagious, The Idea Agency, Marsha Collier, but to name a few Tweeted about the story and it started spreading like wildfire on Twitter, dripping down to blogs, forums, Google+ etc and then back to Facebook.



Detective work over! Any comments/insights on how the Sainsbury’s story went viral today appreciated! I am still trying to figure out where Parker Lim originally found the letter (and yes I’ve Facebook messaged him to find out!)