Viral marketing is like coronavirus, you think it’s just the small flu but before long, it spreads everywhere and conquers the world. The only difference is that people would love to experience viral marketing, unlike the COVID-19.
Okay, jokes apart, if you are always itching for your brand/posts to spread like wildfire, we totally understand you. Since brands rightly want to get their identities and content in front of as many customers as possible. This describes why so many companies turn to viral marketing as an ability to propel themselves into social media fame.
But does running after trends and one-off events really make sense today? Shouldn’t marketers just utilize social media as part of a broader marketing funnel?
The theory of viral marketing certainly needs some re-examination as we approach a new year. To achieve that, we have put together this article. Go grab a coffee and read on to know some amazing things about viral marketing.
Here are the things we’ll discuss:
- What is viral marketing?
- How does viral marketing work?
- Why viral marketing?
- How to make your brand go viral?
- How to make a social media campaign go viral?
- Advantages of viral marketing
- What kind of content goes viral?
- Viral marketing campaign examples to follow
- Frequently asked questions
What is viral marketing?
To begin things, first, let’s see a quick definition of viral marketing.
“Viral marketing is a sales technique that involves organic or word-of-mouth information about a product or service to spread at an ever-increasing rate.”
Marketing is labeled “viral” when it hits the stage that it is shared by the wider population rather than just the brand’s target market. If you achieve that, your post will be in just about everyone’s social media feed.
There are several reasons you may want to go viral. To promote a certain product or get your users to talk about how great your product is. Its main motive is to build an overall image of your brand in the minds of people.
There is only one rule of viral marketing. It is essential to make your product worth talking about. Once they love it, getting them to talk about it and share it with friends will be much easier.
Some marketing campaigns try to trigger virality, however many times just exactly what goes viral remains a mystery. Although it majorly depends on luck, sometimes it is in your hands to increase your chances of going viral.
How does viral marketing work?
Well, a lot of current social media viral marketing can be demonstrated by the prominence of memes. While not inherently related to a particular product, the way memes propagate goes hand in hand with viral concepts. Talk of how totally random things like Baby Yoda or “OK boomer” seize over your social feeds from nowhere.
Memes are shared and circulated like crazy because they connect with people, while outsiders engage with meme trends by liking and sharing. The same principles apply to viral marketing where followers and consumers spread the content of a brand because their post or ad is buzz-worthy. Viral marketing campaigns are like “power in a bottle” for businesses. Most will try, but few will actually be able to get the kind of universal influence they’re aiming for.
Why viral marketing?
Viral marketing is even better than paid promotions. It involves little to no advertising costs in the long term. The aim of viral marketing is to make your content so appealing that people share it on their own.
Viral marketing has a huge role to play in creating an image for your brand. It also increases brand awareness as the content you create would attract potential customers.
A viral piece of content will either sell the customer on your product or create a unique memory in your ideal customer’s mind. Because of this memory, the next time a customer thinks about purchasing products, they’ll think of you first.
Through viral marketing, your reputation as a reliable company can reach potential clients across the globe, enabling your company to branch out internationally.
Viral marketing is believed to be one of the most powerful ways to make a business stand out.
How to make your brand go viral?
1. Find the right target audience
In order to make your brand go viral, you first need to determine your target audience. Viral content is only effective when it reaches people that relate to it. Before creating a viral campaign, create at least one marketing persona that is a representation of your target customer.
It will include demographics, psychographic information, and their social media behavior (content preferences). When you know about your target audience and what they like, your team will be able to create content that relates to them and holds the potential to get shared and end up being viral.
2. Pick the right social media platforms
Being on major social media platforms is mandatory for your brand to go viral, as most viral marketing techniques revolve around social sites. According to your target audience, you need to finalize the social platforms you’ll work on. Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are all good platforms on which to start a viral marketing campaign.
However, keep in mind that you will have to create content depending on the platforms that you choose. For example, for Instagram, you need to create stories, feed posts, as well as reels. While for Twitter, you need to create short and crisp tweets.
3. Capture attention fast
People are surrounded by truckloads of content as soon as they open up any social media app. Due to the continuously increasing pool of content, the attention span is dropping low every day. In order to make people stop scrolling and have a look at your content, you need to curate posts that capture their attention at the first glance.
You need to convey a message that instantly translates as bold, funny, wild, inspiring, or something in between. Also, you need to adapt to the emerging forms of content. Right now, owing to Instagram reels, TikTok videos, FB watch, and YouTube shorts, video content is the only way to be popular.
4. Post at the right times
To make sure that your content reaches as many people as possible, you need to time its release. That is, you have to figure out the best times to post on social media to be able to post during times when your audience is the most active. The ideal time to post will depend upon the social platform and habits and preferences of your target audience.
You can find your own unique best times by doing A/B tests for all the social platforms and analyzing insights. Alternatively, you can use a social media scheduling tool like RecurPost that lets you auto-schedule posts for best times. This way, you can kill two birds with one stone – you won’t have to calculate your best times for each platform and you won’t have to manually post content throughout the day by scheduling them beforehand.
5. Appeal to emotions
All the viral campaigns are driven by how they make people feel. When you create content that generates emotion, people are more likely to engage with it. Think of some social posts that you still remember. Did they make you laugh, cry, nostalgic, or angry? Whatever marketing campaigns come to your mind, they might have made you feel a certain way. And you need to do the same in order to make people remember your campaign.
How to make a social media campaign go viral?
1. Right time
You should consider the date and time that you share your content. Marketers use major holidays to their advantage.
The best time to post on Instagram is between 9 am – 11 am EST. Scheduling your social media posts for optimized times is proven to help you reach more followers and get more engagement on your posts. Use the time zone that most of your followers are in for most of your posts. The more engagement your content gets shortly after posting, the more people Instagram will show it to.
To make your content go viral, it is essential to post at the right time when more people are likely to come across your content. You can use a social media scheduling tool like RecurPost to automatically publish your posts at the right time.
2. Right audience
This step actually comes before creating content. It is important that you keep in mind your target audience before creating anything. Make your content as generic as possible. It is better if it is not very elitist but relatable to the layman. This will possibly lead to more shares.
If you know who your audience is; you know who you’re writing for. If you know what content they’re looking for; you’ll never run out of ideas to write about. If you know where they go to find it; you know where you need to be sharing your content.
Keeping a track of the demographic is essential to know your audience. Keep your audience’s age, gender, location, and preferences in mind before creating any content.
3. Right platform
Bear in mind that only the right kind of social media platform is going to help you in making your marketing campaign viral. All platforms differ and the type of content they entertain varies. You should choose a platform according to your audience and content.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are great platforms for starting a successful viral marketing campaign.
Eg. When creating content for Instagram, you have to think about Instagram Stories, which are a great way to spark shares. IG stories are easy to share and view; therefore, all you need for a good story is a relevant and excellent caption.
4. Right/unique content
Viral content is not just popular content, it’s good content. For your content to create leads, it needs to convince people to click on it without begging them to. Think outside the box of traditional marketing techniques. Add humor, add emotional appeal, and voilà, you have a 10% chance of going viral.
The content does not always have to be intellectually stimulating. It can be as silly and simple as an egg.
5. Right people/Influencers
Using the right kind of people to promote a specific campaign is the smart thing to do.
When your company is endorsed by more and more influencers to their friends and close associates, your message goes viral. This adds points to your credibility rating. Collaborate with people not just in your field of work but even with people outside your industry.
The TV show The Walking Dead teamed up with UC Irvine to create an open online course on what a zombie apocalypse would be like. Zombie lovers ate it up like free brains. Both the show and the university benefitted.
6. Right words
One word: Hashtags.
Relevant and trending hashtags are the time bombs of the viral marketing industry. They can make or break your campaign. With over 100 million photos and videos uploaded daily on Instagram and over 500 million tweets sent in a day, it is difficult for branded content to stand out. Using hashtag campaigns is a great way for brands to get their content noticed on social media and make their viral marketing campaign successful.
Eg. #ShareACoke Campaign by Coca-Cola
The brand used this hashtag campaign, along with personalized Coca-Cola bottles, to encourage sharing and gifting of Coca-Cola bottles. Coca-Cola empowered consumers to discuss the product over social media platforms, in a way that puts the control in the hands of customers. By reflecting on their personal experiences, consumers felt like their lifestyles were the center of the narrative, instead of feeling like they were merely tools in the company’s promotional machine.
Consequently, consumers shared more than 500,000 photos via the #ShareaCoke hashtag, within the first year alone. Coca-Cola gained roughly 25 million new Facebook followers that same year. This is an example of how creative hashtags can literally transform your social media campaign.
7. Right amount of sharing
There is no ‘right’ amount of sharing your content, just create the best possible audio-visual content and share it as much as you can. Use word-of-mouth, tell your friends to re-share it too. Promote your content on every kind of social network. Give people incentives for sharing if necessary.
Boost content by doing paid ads on Facebook, Adwords, TV, radio, Newspapers, Magazine, or any medium that your target market uses.
8. Right features
Use up all the features that social media has to offer. Audio-visual content attracts people like no other. Make use of videos that convey a lot. Infographics, memes, long-form content, posters ..use it all.
Videos explode like no other form of content, use that to your advantage. Video marketing has several core platforms. YouTube isn’t the only option. Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks are also heavily promoting video content.
Millennials and Gen z are the arbiters of all things viral and there is nothing like a hint of ‘wokeness’ which attracts our kind.
Create content that is in no way derogatory to any particular community, race, gender, etc. The kind of content that is humane and up to date with the trending memes. Use references from popular shows, current affairs, and politics.
Your virality can just be a meme away!
Advantages of viral marketing
1. Cost is low or sometimes nill
What defines viral marketing campaigns is that consumers do a large part of the work for the brand, which greatly decreases the cost of distribution. It is not necessary to run paid ads or buy media space.
2. Potential of massive reach
Viral content on the Internet has the potential to reach a broad international crowd without having to spend a lot of money on marketing or putting in any additional effort. As a consequence, a small business or even a private person may go highly viral.
3. Viral marketing is not invasive
In viral marketing, the users of social media are the ones who make the decision to engage and share content, thereby reducing the ability of the brand to be invasive. Thus the understanding of the brand and the interaction are considerably stronger than the more classical types of advertisement.
4. Helps in building your brand
If you really hit the bull’s eye in aspects of imagination, and you’re producing content that’s so amazing that people decide to share it and thereby create a special connection with your company. Without a question, it is an incredibly important tool when it comes to branding and raising brand awareness.
5. Rapid lead generation
While we typically concentrate on sales that we get from viral marketing, we cannot ignore the fact that going viral has a huge effect on the lead generation process. People often tend to be drawn to things that are trending. Everyone may not be able to buy from you just yet but they definitely want to keep you in mind when they are ready, if you generate enough interest. Logically, if you’re a B2B brand or a service-based company, you’re likely to generate more leads than making sales through viral marketing, but it’s well worth the hassle.
What kind of content goes viral?
A viral content possesses any of the following 6 characteristics:
- Triggers: Your content should contain a message that is being currently discussed widely in the industry.
- Emotion: Your content should evoke a feeling of happiness, or be humorous, or be even just useful. Try to stay away from creating controversial content as it may end up going viral but not necessarily the way you want to.
- Social currency: The post should contain some useful information that should be relatively high-end if it’s an industry-related post, that’s educational but at the same time provides a certain level of knowledge.
- Public: This works in conjunction with triggers. Your content should be available for public discussion and evoke people to follow you.
- Stories: Create your post in a way that it portrays a story and relates to your target audience.
- Practical value: Create some how-to videos or tutorials that provide practical value to viewers which they can apply in their daily lives.
Viral Marketing Campaign Examples to follow
For the last decade, there have been new developments in the viral marketing field. Marketers have tried and tested all ideas that have sometimes skyrocketed like crazy.
From appealing to people’s funny bones to emotionally overwhelming them, brands have left a mark on people’s minds for a long time.
An example of a viral thing was when the internet lost its mind over the color of a dress. It all started when Scottish singer Caitlin McNeill posted a photo of her dress on Tumblr, asking for consensus on the color of the dress. Was it blue and black or white and gold?
A lot of popular brands leached off to this viral post and gave their penny to this thought. It resulted in a lot of retweets and shares which helped the brand engage with its audiences.
An example of a viral marketing campaign in recent times was the ‘duct-taped banana trend’. The taped banana was secured to a wall with a single piece of duct tape. It began garnering attention after it debuted at the Miami art exhibition Art Basel as part of an installation dubbed “Comedian” that was created by artist Maurizio Cattelan.
A lot of brands in the world caught on to this viral trend and garnered attention. Burger King is known for its active social media presence and quirky posts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Viral marketing is a strategy where people are encouraged to share and spread information about a brand’s products or services online – mostly on social media platforms. The magic of viral marketing lies in its ability to make content spread like wildfire. The best part is that any piece of content goes viral just because people like it so much that they share it with their audience.
However, a lot needs to be worked on behind the scenes, as only 1% of content ends up going viral. You need to incorporate opinions and emotion into the content creation process. The more people relate to what you have to say, the more are the chances of your content going viral. A viral campaign focuses on generating positive emotions such as surprise or joy. You can also collaborate with some influencers to help share your content 3 times more. Share it on multiple social media platforms multiple times to reach as many people as possible! Make use of different formats like feed posts, stories, reels, tweets, etc.
There are basically 5 Viral campaign types:
1. Emotional viral marketing: Trigger something emotional like joy, anger, laughter, or tears.
2. Incentivized viral marketing: Run a contest or giveaway and reward people to share your campaign.
3. Engineered viral marketing: It is a marketing campaign that is engineered intentionally to go viral.
4. Pass-along viral marketing: It is when one user passes the content to others and it forms a chain.
5. Buzz viral marketing: A buzz is created intentionally through ads or messages to grab the attention of people.
Follow the below simple steps to make your brand go viral:
1. Be attentive to people’s emotions as they play a crucial role in making any campaign viral.
2. Make creative ads, not conventional ones.
3. Be good at storytelling as it evokes an emotional response in the viewers.
4. Don’t just create one campaign and stop. Keep your audience engaged with multiple campaigns.
5. Make sure that the campaign is easily shareable.
Along with a stroke of luck, viral marketing campaigns require a bit of persistence and some groundwork. To boost your chances of going viral, take care of the following:
– Post your campaign on multiple social media platforms more than once.
– Make your content relatable and relevant.
– Be more authentic – Elicit emotions, tell stories, discuss ideas.
– Make your campaign reach the right audience through ads or influencer marketing.
– Run a contest or giveaway.
To make your content go viral online, consider the below tips:
– Incorporate current newsworthy trends into your viral content.
– Focus more on creating video content.
– Make use of relevant keywords and hashtags.
– Collaborate with multiple influencers.
– Launch a fun contest.
– Incorporate humor in your content.
– Dare to be shocking and controversial.
Debbie Moran is a Digital marketing strategist with 5+ years of experience producing advertising for brands and helping leaders showcase their brand to the correct audience. She has been a part of RecurPost since 2019 and handles all the activities required to grow our brand’s online presence.