Our Definitive Guide to Viral Marketing

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read

Viral marketing is everywhere. Super Bowl ads using humor to inspire viewers to share them with their friends long after the big game is over are great examples of this. Even a world-famous star like Kanye West has been trying some viral marketing of his own recently as he creates drama between himself and other celebrities to attract attention just 2 weeks before his new album drops.

Since the beginnings of social media and the internet, content creators and marketers across the world wide web have done their best to “go viral” in hopes of gaining followers, customers, fame or just plain money. Although it can be difficult to achieve and is often an unsustainable way to improve marketing, it can have many benefits when accomplished.

In this guide we’ll explain what it means to “go viral” and how people are able to achieve this. We’ll discuss:

  • What is viral marketing?
  • How to create and execute a viral marketing campaign
  • Pros and cons of viral marketing
  • Famous viral marketing campaign examples

What is Viral Marketing?

The definition of viral marketing is “a business technique that utilizes social networks (online or offline) to promote a product, service, or piece of content using organic and word of mouth means.” The name comes from the similarity of how rapidly and widely the reach spreads compared to that of a virus. Essentially, viral marketing is creating content that generates buzz so quickly that it inspires organic conversations among many different social groups.

How to Create and Execute a Viral Marketing Campaign

With so many content creators and marketers out there trying to accomplish the same goal, it’s often difficult to “go viral”. With that said, there are a number of strategies you can use to pursue your goals of going viral.

Regardless of your specific goals and strategies, there are some components that every viral campaign should try to incorporate into their content and strategy. These are:

  1. Grab attention fast: This is a big one. With so much content on the web today, consumers don’t want to waste time with something boring. So…they don't. With the average consumer you only have a few seconds (maybe less) for them to decide if they want to view your content. So act fast and get to the point.
  2. Have a target audience: Even though you want your content to reach many different consumers, you should still have a target audience or demographic in mind. If you post shallow content in hopes it will have a broader appeal, it might actually have less. Keep your content on brand and remember your goals.
  3. Appeal to emotions: Another huge component of viral marketing is emotional appeal. Whether you choose humor, love, or even sadness or fear- just make sure you achieve what you’re aiming for instead of landing somewhere in the middle. The more strongly you can appeal to someone’s emotions, the more likely they are to share or interact with the content.
  4. Don’t sell too hard: Remember, consumers move on quickly from content. If it feels too much like a sales pitch they’ll assume it’s an ad and will likely skip the content. Your content should be entertaining, thought provoking, and conversation inspiring- not just a 10 second clip of something funny before jumping into a sales pitch. Be memorable and creative.
  5. Easy to promote and share: The whole point of viral marketing is having consumers promote and share the content for you- so this is obviously important. Make sure your content is readily available across multiple social media platforms, ensure that it is easy to embed, download, and share. Additionally, publish the content while consumers are active and also try to reach out to accounts with large followings to have them share it for you.
  6. Set clear objectives: Before launching your campaign, make sure to have some clear goals in mind. Obviously with the nature of viral marketing, you might not know exactly how well your campaign will perform but you should at least have a baseline goal of a few KPIs (key performance indicators) that you can track against to analyze a campaign’s success.

Following these guidelines can help give your campaign some early structure as it is planned, developed, and executed. As with any form of marketing- be sure to know your audience and know which metrics you want to track.

Pros and Cons of Viral Marketing

Every marketing and business strategy will have some forms of advantages and disadvantages; understanding them ahead of time can help you prepare a comprehensive strategy.

The pros of viral marketing are:

  • Fast organic growth
  • Does not require a large budget
  • Helps reach new audiences
  • More creative and memorable than traditional marketing

The cons of viral marketing are:

  • You can’t control the narrative
  • Growth is unsustainable
  • Difficult to track results
  • Can be a waste of time if unsuccessful

With these in mind, viral marketing has become an enviable part of modern marketing strategy (when it is done well).

Famous Viral Marketing Campaign Examples

Speaking of viral marketing done well, here are some famous examples you may recognize from recent year.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

In the summer of 2014 over $115 million were raised to support awareness  and a cure for ALS. This was achieved with a viral “challenge” wherein participants had to make a donation to the organization and then share a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice over their heads and nominating friends and family to do the same. By creating a fun challenge that inspired camaraderie and laughs, This campaign was incredibly successful in such a short time.

Spotify “Wrapped”

In 2019, Spotify began a campaign they would restart each December wherein they share each user their streaming data using interesting charts and catchy phrases. Users were then able to share these screenshots across social media and inadvertently attract great attention to Spotify.

Zoom’s Virtual Background Contest

In the midst of the global pandemic when a lot of people were struggling and many were working remotely for the first time, Zoom launched a viral contest to create a little joy and fun in people’s daily routines. The contest consisted of users sharing their creative and funny backgrounds on social media using a custom hashtag.

Nxt Era Marketing Can Help You Go Viral

Partnering with a talented marketing agency like Nxt Era is the best way to develop, execute, and track any marketing campaign, especially viral marketing. Our talented content creators, social media managers, and all of our digital marketing experts are ready to help you elevate your brand and achieve the success you need. Contact us today to schedule your free marketing consultation!

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