The Ultimate Guide to Viral Marketing With Examples and Tactics
Have you ever stumbled upon a video or a meme that was so hilarious or captivating that you just had to share it with your friends and family? If you have, you’ve experienced the power of viral marketing! While viral is not always a good thing (COVID, we’re looking at you), it certainly can be when it comes to your marketing strategy.
But how exactly does viral marketing work? Why are some campaigns successful while others fall flat? And most importantly, how can you use viral marketing to promote your own business or brand? In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of viral marketing, give you some examples, and explore the ins and outs of this powerful marketing strategy. Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or simply curious about the power of online sharing, you won’t want to miss this.
What Is Viral Marketing?
Viral marketing is a type of marketing strategy that encourages people to share content or products with others so that your product, message, or brand spreads rapidly from person to person. A successful viral marketing campaign accomplishes exactly this outcome.
To put this into context, let’s Imagine you have a product or service you want to promote, but you don’t have much money to spend on advertising. What do you do? You decide to give viral marketing a try.
Viral marketing is like planting and watching a seed grow into a giant, money-making tree. You create some awesome content — a funny video, a clever meme, or a witty social media post — and share it with your friends, family, and followers. Then they share it with their friends, family, followers, and so on, until your content has spread like wildfire.
The beauty of viral marketing is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money — it just takes a bit of creativity and (let’s be honest) some good old-fashioned luck. If your content is funny, clever, or downright bizarre, people are more likely to share it with their friends and followers. And the more people who share your content, the more exposure your product or service gets.
Viral Marketing Examples
Just in case you still are not getting the picture, or you’re unsure of whether or not you have been on the receiving end of a viral marketing campaign, let’s review some wildly successful examples.
Ice Bucket Challenge
Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? This campaign went viral in 2014 and had people all over the world dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness and funds for ALS research. It was a massive success, with millions of people participating and donating to the cause.
Share a Coke
Another viral marketing campaign that made a big impact was the “Share a Coke” campaign by Coca-Cola. The company printed people’s names on their bottles and cans, encouraging consumers to buy drinks that featured their own names or the names of their friends and family. This campaign was a hit, as people all over the world were excited to find their own names or the names of loved ones on their favorite beverage.
Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club also had a viral marketing hit with its humorous video advertisement that showcased its subscription-based razor service. The video quickly went viral and gained millions of views, turning the small startup into a major player in the shaving industry.
Will It Blend?
Another example of viral marketing done right is Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” campaign. The campaign featured a series of videos in which the company’s CEO, Tom Dickson, blended various objects in their blenders, including iPhones, golf balls, and even a rake. The videos went viral and helped to establish Blendtec as a leading brand in the blender market.
Office Max, Elf Yourself
The “Elf Yourself” campaign by OfficeMax is another great example of viral marketing. The campaign allowed users to upload photos of themselves and their friends, which were then inserted into animated videos of dancing elves. The videos were hilarious and highly shareable, and they helped to drive traffic to OfficeMax’s website during the holiday season.
And let’s not forget the “Dressgate” phenomenon that took social media by storm. When a picture of a dress went viral, people couldn’t agree on whether it was white and gold or blue and black. Brands quickly jumped on the trend, creating their own versions of the dress in their branding colors and promoting them on social media.
Advantages of Viral Marketing
Now that you get the picture, let’s discuss why viral marketing is such a great way to grow your brand.
First and foremost, viral marketing is incredibly cost effective. Because it relies on social sharing and word-of-mouth promotion, it can often spread quickly and easily without the need for expensive advertising campaigns. This means that even small businesses with limited marketing budgets can potentially reach a large audience and generate buzz around their brand.
Another advantage of viral marketing is that it can help to build brand awareness and recognition. When people share your content or participate in your campaign, they do the marketing for you. This can help increase your brand’s visibility and create a sense of familiarity among potential customers.
Viral marketing can also help to create a sense of community and engagement around your brand. When people share your content, they are essentially endorsing your brand and becoming part of a larger conversation. This can help create a feeling of loyalty and connection among your audience, ultimately leading to increased sales and customer retention.
Finally, viral marketing can help to create excitement and anticipation around your brand. When people see that something is going viral, they often feel compelled to get involved and be a part of the action. This can create a sense of urgency and excitement around your campaign, which can ultimately lead to increased brand engagement and conversions.
Disadvantages of Viral Marketing
While viral marketing can be a powerful tool for businesses, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider. Here are a few of the most common downsides to watch out for:
One of the biggest disadvantages of viral marketing is that it can be difficult to predict or control. Because viral campaigns rely on social sharing and word-of-mouth advancement, it can be challenging to know how your content will be received or who will share it. This means that your campaign could potentially go in a direction that you didn’t intend or attract an audience that is not the one you were targeting.
Another potential disadvantage of viral marketing is that it can be short lived. While a viral campaign can generate a lot of buzz and excitement in a short period of time, it can also quickly fizzle out and lose momentum. This means that it may not have a lasting impact on your brand or generate the long-term results you hoped for.
Viral marketing can also be risky, as predicting how the public will receive your content can be difficult. If your campaign is controversial or offensive in any way, it could backfire and do serious damage to your brand’s reputation.
Finally, viral marketing can be difficult to measure and track. Because it relies on social sharing and word-of-mouth boosting, it can be challenging to know how many people have seen your content or how much impact it has had on your brand. This means that it can be difficult to determine the return on investment (ROI) of your viral marketing campaigns.
Viral Marketing vs. Buzz Marketing
If you have been keeping up with marketing news, you likely have also heard of “buzz” marketing. Let’s quickly discuss the difference.
The basic idea behind viral marketing is that you create something, such as a video or a meme, that people want to share with others. The more people share it, the more it spreads like a virus — hence the name “viral” marketing.
The goal of viral marketing is to create excitement around your product or service by getting people talking about it and sharing it with others. The hope is that this will lead to increased brand awareness and, ultimately, more sales.
On the other hand, buzz marketing is a bit different. With buzz marketing, the focus is on generating excitement and anticipation for a product or service before it’s even launched. This is typically done through a variety of tactics, such as teaser campaigns or influencer marketing.
The idea is to get people talking about your product or service before it’s available, creating a buzz and generating hype around it. This can help build anticipation and increase demand when the product or service is finally launched.
Both viral marketing and buzz marketing can be effective ways to promote your brand and increase sales, but they require different approaches. Viral marketing is all about creating something that people want to share, while buzz marketing is about building anticipation and generating excitement ahead of a product release.
How Many Followers Do You Need to Go Viral?
When brands first consider implementing viral marketing into their strategy, they often end up deciding against it because they don’t have many followers. But what if we told you that your content could go viral without many followers? After all, how do you think social media accounts get their followers to begin with? Sometimes it can take years of diligence, but often it’s a byproduct of viral marketing.
There’s no set number of followers you need to go viral — you can go viral with 100 followers just as you can with a million. Viral content can be shared by just a handful of people and still reach millions while other content with thousands of shares may not go viral at all.
In general, the more followers you have, the greater the potential for your content to go viral, as you have a larger audience to share it with. However, having a large number of followers doesn’t guarantee that your content will go viral, as it still needs to be something that people want to share with others.
Why Does Some Content Go Viral and Others Don’t?
Ah, the age-old question of why some content goes viral and others don’t! In some ways, it’s a bit of a mystery, but a few factors can play a role.
For starters, the emotional response the content evokes can be a huge determinant in whether or not something spreads. Content that makes people feel happy, amused, or inspired is often more likely to be shared, as people want to spread those positive emotions to others. Conversely, content that makes people feel angry, frustrated, or sad may also be shared — but for different reasons, such as to raise awareness about an issue.
Another factor is the novelty or uniqueness of the content. People are often drawn to things that are new or different, so if your content is something that people haven’t seen before, it may be more likely to go viral. This is why new dance or viral challenges often gain traction online.
Timing can also play a role in whether content goes viral or not. If your content is tied to a current event or trend, it may be more likely to be shared widely. For example, a meme that references a current news story or pop culture phenomenon may gain traction more quickly than a similar meme that’s not tied to anything specific.
Finally, it’s worth noting that, sometimes, good old luck can also play a role in whether content goes viral or not. If a piece of content just happens to catch the right person’s attention at the right time, it often snowballs from there.
How to Start Your Own Viral Marketing Campaign
Starting a viral marketing campaign can be challenging, but with the right strategy and approach, it’s doable! Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Create something shareable: The key to viral marketing is creating content that people want to share with others. This can be anything from a funny video to an interesting infographic to a provocative blog post. Whatever you create, make sure it’s something that people will want to pass along to their friends and followers.
- Know your audience: To create shareable content, you need to know your target audience and their interests. Spend some time researching your audience and figuring out what types of content resonate with them. This will help you create something that they’re more likely to share.
- Use social media: Social media is one of the most powerful tools for viral marketing. Share your content on your profiles and encourage your followers to share it with their networks. You can also use social media advertising to reach a wider audience and increase your chances of going viral.
- Leverage influencers: Influencer marketing can be a great way to kickstart your viral campaign. Find influencers in your industry or niche and partner with them to promote your content to their followers. This can help you reach a wider audience and build credibility with potential customers.
- Monitor and adjust: Once your campaign is live, monitor its performance closely and be prepared to make adjustments as needed. If you do not see the results you want, try tweaking your strategy or adjusting your content to align better with your audience’s interests.
Viral Marketing Tactics
While there’s no surefire way to make content go viral, there are a few tactics and “hacks” that can increase your chances of success. Here are a few to consider:
Use emotion to your advantage
As we mentioned earlier, content that elicits a strong emotional response is often more likely to be shared. Consider ways to incorporate humor, awe, inspiration, or other emotions into your content to make it more shareable.
Make it timely
Tying your content to a current event or trend can help it gain traction more quickly. Look for ways to capitalize on popular hashtags or memes to make your content more relevant and timely.
Tap into influencers
Influencers can be a powerful tool for spreading your content to a wider audience. Identify influencers in your niche or industry who align with your brand and work with them to promote your content to their followers. Consider having some relevant influencers be the face of your campaign.
Utilize paid advertising
While organic reach can be difficult to achieve, paid advertising can help you reach a wider audience and increase your chances of going viral. Consider boosting your posts or content with some ad spend to improve the visibility of your content.
Make it easy to share
Don’t forget to include social sharing buttons on your content to make it easy for people to share with their networks. You can also consider adding incentives for sharing, such as a discount code or entry into a contest.
Leverage user-generated content
Encouraging your followers to create their own content related to your brand or campaign can be a great way to generate buzz and increase engagement. Consider running a user-generated content contest or featuring customer stories on your social media channels.
Remember, viral marketing isn’t an exact science, and there’s no guarantee that your campaign will go viral. But by focusing on creating shareable content, knowing your audience, leveraging social media and influencers, and being willing to adjust your strategy as needed, you can increase your chances of creating a campaign that takes the internet by storm.
Emily is an experienced digital marketer with almost a decade of experience helping businesses scale through online channels. In addition to her business background, she is also a personal trainer and nutritionist and runs a growing wellness blog called Girl Let’s Glow.