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Phenomenon or Reality? The “Angel Shot” and Social Media

Social media and the real world have a funny, tenuous, relationship.

As hard as it is to believe, there are still some things that happen in the real world that don’t get mentioned on a Twitter feed. And, sometimes, ideas on social media get over-represented versus their actual impact in the real world.

The “angel shot” social media phenomenon is potentially an example of the latter: where blog posts and social media shares give oxygen to a tiny spark of an idea. The question is whether the real world impact will match the social media hype.

The Angel Shot

The angel shot narrative starts with local media reports of a bar in Saint Petersburg, Florida, in late 2016, that posted a simple sign in its women’s restroom. The sign encourages women who don’t feel safe on a date to ask the bartender for an “angel shot,” which would prompt the bartender to discreetly ensure the patron’s safety by either getting her a ride home or calling the police.

According to the report, the bar credits the idea for the sign back to a poster campaign in England with a similar concept that got social media attention from a patron. What looks like the breakthrough tweet for the poster received nearly 40,000 re-tweets and 55,000 likes.


The local media attention (and accompanying social media content) sparked a second wave of media attention in January, with Redbook posting an article and Facebook video that that spurred on dozens of other articles, including in Business Insider. Redbook’s Facebook video alone received 30 million views and nearly a million shares. USA Today followed up with a story in February.

Now, fast-forward to July, where three bars in Hermosa Beach, California, have posted similar signs and are coordinating with local police on the effort.

But is It a Thing?

So, the question is: has this social media spark ignited kindling? Could it become a campfire?


It’s definitely not a campfire yet. A Google Trends search indicates a spike around the January coverage, but that it hasn’t been sustained.

It still has potential, for two reasons: it is spreading in real life and it captures one of the most viral elements of good social campaigns.

The adoption of the angel shot concept from one bar in Florida to three in California indicates that there is geographic growth potential in real life. Plus, the involvement of another audience group — in this case, law enforcement — gives it the chance to spread across audience boundaries.

Just as importantly, the “angel shot” embodies the “simple secret that’s too good not to share.” Simply knowing about it empowers you to share it with others, which is at the very heart of viral ideas.

Three Tips for National Brands

  • Social media integration is key. Bringing social media into the real world brings the real world to social media. Restricting your social media strategy to just social media content restricts its return on investment. So coordinate social media branding and campaigns with your packaging, signage, traditional media relations and advertising.
  • Find the “sparks” in social media. Trendspotting on social media is commonplace, but identifying the sparks that align with your brand before they become full-blown campfires can keep you ahead of the competition and increase return on investment.
  • Innovation and simplicity can be the same thing. Social media directors and marketing managers can be the champion for simplicity in product and campaign development.

The angel shot concept wins because of its simplicity — and we think it will continue to spread for the same reason.

Brendon Shank is vice president & account director for PR & social media at Domus.

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