Business Lessons from the Bus Monitor Viral Video

I was researching social media trends the other day.

The most interesting thing I read was about 24,000 people donating $541,000 to send a bullied bus monitor grandma in NY on vacation.

We’ve all seen viral videos and enjoyed many of them, like the dog talking and the baby laughing. But most of those videos are funny or feel good. They show how our online world can result in rapid spreading of information crazy fast.

Bullied bus monitor Karen Klein

Bullied bus monitor Karen Klein

However, this situation was a bit different. Several middle schoolers taunted the bus monitor, Karen Klein, with mean words, calling her fat and tons of other horrible things. Someone captured the video on their cellphone as it went on and on… for 10 minutes. They made her cry. She kept turning her face away to escape their cruelty.

It’s a video that many of us have experienced… either as the one being put down or the one bullying.

People were enraged and someone set up “Give Karen a Vacation” fund with a goal of raising $5K. The reality is a many more zeros have been added. As I surfed around, I found an interview with Karen responding like any of us would, saying, “It sounds too good to be true.”


This is a heart-warming story, and it really did bring tears to my eyes when I saw how amazed Karen was. However, the reason I was surfing social media trends today was for business.

It got me thinking, what business lessons can we learn from the bus monitor story?

  1. Emotions are powerful motivators. As much as people get caught up in the tools and techniques of digital media, it’s still the human element that makes us pay attention.
    • Check out the new video that Apple released showing how some app store developers have changed lives. It made me cry too. But beyond that, it made me proud to be a part of the iPhone/iPad world. And it made me think, is there something that we can develop that can help people or change their lives for the better? How can you tap into emotions with your business?
    • How do you make your customers’ lives better? Tapping into emotions can also be humor, anger, surprise, or wonder.
  2. Social media does enable rapid, impressive response. Karen suffered and no one defended her. So 24,000 gave to give her a vacation. They have probably given her retirement. A woman who donated said she did so to show Karen that people cared about her. People wanted to rectify a wrong.
    • We work with many industries that are just starting to engage online. There’s a lot of skepticism, with a “prove the value” to me attitude. Before they get involved, they want to know what the value is. And I think it is a lot like any other endeavor or learning experience, you get out of it what you put into it.
    • I used to work for a trade association. The people who were involved found the membership very valuable. Those who only paid the dues, who we called “Paycheck members,” were always questioning the value. Are you a “paycheck communicator,” only investing the minimum? Or have you made the commitment necessary to engage with people? There’s something in digital marketing for every company, but do you have the brains, will power and drive to see results?
  3. Crisis can develop quickly. Looking at this situation from the school district’s perspective, they may be receiving hundreds of emails calling for action against the bullies. They have to respond to the media and will likely discipline the boys involved. With video, misbehavior becomes notorious.
    • Whether an organization is engaged online or not, it can become quickly embroiled in a controversy beyond its control. Companies need to be prepared to respond. In this case, the school district responded and said they would discipline the students to the fullest extent. What would be the public’s response if the school district had remained silent?
    • Is your business ready if an employee were featured in a viral video while on duty?

That’s enough deep thinking. What are your take-a-ways from this bus monitor story? 


Sonia is the marketing strategist & word geek for NeuConcept.