Marketing is a well-known factor when it comes to the success of a business. It creates a unique brand for your business that allows you to build customer loyalty and advertise to new potential customers. Today, viral marketing is more popular than ever.
One of the most effective marketing methods is “word of mouth” advertising. This revolves around ensuring that your existing customers are extremely satisfied so they recommend your business to those they know.
This effectively allows for the exponential growth of your company for little to no extra costs. With the introduction of the internet and online marketing, viral marketing has become appealing to many business owners.
Businesses have used Word of mouth since the dawn of time.
Viral marketing is essentially the electronic equivalent of “word of mouth”. However, it can prove much more effective in generating interest in your company since it has a wider reach.
Many businesses want to take advantage of this. Today, we’ll be exploring how. But first, let’s start with the basics.
Table of Contents
What Is Viral Marketing?
Viral marketing is when you create content shared by huge numbers of people outside your audience. When this sharing hits critical mass, it’s known as going viral.
In other words, you want to create something shareable to get your brand in front of thousands or millions of people. Successful viral marketing campaigns become part of the wider cultural fabric briefly.
This is especially effective due to the wide reach of the internet, causing your business to be known globally, making it one of the best online marketing solutions.
Types of Viral Content:
Popular types of viral content formats include:
- Videos – Funny, emotional, or informative videos that get shared on social media. Example: Will Smith’s ALS bucket challenge video.
- Memes – Photos with funny text captions. Memes are easy to recreate and customize. Example: Distracted boyfriend meme.
- Quizzes/Surveys – Interactive quizzes and surveys that users share to compare results. Example: Buzzfeed quizzes.
- Contests/Giveaways – User-generated contests and branded giveaways to encourage shares. Example: Starbucks holiday cup Instagram contest.
- Games – Engaging online games like augmented reality filters that spread via social sharing. Example: Pokemon Go mobile game.
- Hashtags – Viral hashtags and challenges engage the social community. Example: #MannequinChallenge hashtag trend.
Tips for Creating Viral Content:
- Use humour, surprise, excitement, or usefulness to trigger high engagement.
- Leverage pop culture references and current events to capitalize on trends.
- Encourage shares via captions and calls to action. Make it easy to participate.
- Use striking visuals and bold typography that stand out in feeds.
- Optimize videos for mobile and social feeds to maximize views.
How to Use Viral Marketing
Of course, this is a lot harder than it sounds. Realistically, for your content to go viral, you need three things:
- A great idea,
- Excellent execution,
- An awful lot of luck.
The last point is often the most important. As such, the goal should be to maximise your chances of going viral. To do this, it’s important to understand the content types best suited to viral marketing.
It is estimated that 3.25 billion hours of YouTube are being watched monthly. This means it is a great medium for spreading awareness for your business. All it takes is one successful video to go viral for your business to gain massive exposure.
Typically, a viral marketing video aims to be unique. This can be done through various ways, such as:
- Eye-catching visuals,
- Controversial ideas,
- Thought to provoke topics,
- Calls to action.
Generally, a viral video is not centred around your business. However, the smart placement of your logo or products will allow your business to benefit from the popularity that the video gains without seeming too commercial, which customers tend to dislike.
Viral videos are generally fairly short, although we’ll see one prominent exception to this later. A few years ago, Vine was the top platform for viral videos. Nowadays, it has been replaced by TikTok.
To your business social media is the ideal medium to generate traffic for your business through interacting with the customers.
To begin with, potential customers may be engaged through posting informative content on your social media pages. Furthermore, engaging content such as competition or promotions can be hosted on social media.
Another great way to go viral is by creating written content marketing. These articles should be relevant to the current trends and aim to answer questions that the general public is talking about.
This is one of the simplest viral marketing methods; all it requires is your business to write about relevant topics. This should already be happening if you are doing proper keyword research.
Furthermore, by implementing proper SEO techniques, your chances of going viral rise exponentially.
This is why ensuring that your articles are properly streamlined and including several internal links to direct this massive traffic into more articles on your website is important.
Engaging the Viewer
It is often recommended that your content should engage the viewer. This serves two purposes. First, an engaged customer is much more likely to return to your business because of the satisfaction of being relevant.
This builds customer loyalty for your brand. Second, engagement is often on social media, which means that others will see this engagement, generating interest in your business. With enough people doing it, your business could go viral.
Engagement can be in the form of asking the audience questions they may discuss or promotions encouraging customers to share your business. This is quite effective as it leaves the customers satisfied.
Tips for creating viral content that resonates and triggers sharing:
- Use funny videos, memes, jokes, or amusing stories that make people laugh. Comedy creates inherent social value.
- Poke fun at everyday life observations or leverage pop culture through parody.
- Comedy works best when it is lighthearted and inclusive vs offensive.
- Generate curiosity and interest by taking an unexpected angle on content.
- Use misleading headers, odd imagery, or quirky concepts to catch people off guard.
- Reveal something surprising about a product/service to change perceptions.
- Allow for interactivity and hidden details to sustain intrigue.
- Provide value by educating and informing audiences on relevant topics.
- Offer life hacks, productivity tips, and money-saving tricks people want to learn.
- Curate lists and guides that solve problems and questions.
- Infographics, statistics, and facts presented visually tend to be shared widely.
Leveraging these emotional triggers and usefulness helps content resonate and inspires audiences to share with others.
Viral Marketing Success Stories
When trying to go viral, it is often wise to attempt all these previously stated methods.
They complement each other quite nicely, allowing for a more engaging brand that will cause your potential customers to choose you over the competition. Now, let us observe some stories of viral campaign successes.
Kony 2012 is probably the most infamous example of a viral marketing campaign. It may feel like only yesterday, but in 2012, many people were much less sceptical of online content than today.
The documentary-style film aimed to spread awareness of the crimes of Joseph Kony, a Ugandan Warlord, and was even described by Time Magazine as the most viral video ever.
However, it was greatly criticised by experts in the region for vastly oversimplifying the problem and doing more to make Western audiences feel as though they were contributing than actually creating solutions.
The Kony 2012 campaign also notably made a concerted effort to sell relevant merchandise in the film, leading to much criticism. This is questionable in terms of digital marketing ethics.
GoPro in action
GoPro is a company that prides itself on its high-quality cameras that are super portable and almost indestructible. They realized that there is nothing better than thanking customers for marketing the products for them.
That is why they feature some of the best customer-created videos on their social media site.
These are often videos of trendy sports or adventures. However, one particular video caught the eye of the public. This video of the firefighter with a GoPro attached to his helmet saved a kitten.
His video evoked emotions in many, and its upload on the official GoPro YouTube has reached over 5 million views. This was a perfect example of how the GoPro truly allows you to capture the moment, and there is no doubt that it has convinced many to purchase their own.
Ways influencers and social media platforms help amplify and spread viral content:
- Influencers have large built-in audiences primed to engage with their content. This gives a boost to potential virality.
- Getting influencer endorsement or co-creation of content lends credibility that encourages shares.
- Micro-influencers with strong niche followings can drive targeted viral effects in specific communities.
- Influencers can repurpose viral content across their social channels for extended lifespans.
- Optimized use of hashtags and tagging on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter helps surface viral content.
- YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit enable sharing content to massive user bases, which aids virality.
- Platform algorithms that recommend viral content help it spread beyond original followers to new audiences.
- Frictionless content-sharing capabilities on social platforms empower users to instantly repost and react to viral content.
- Real-time metrics on social platforms provide data to identify and double down on viral content performing well.
In summary, utilizing influencers and social media effectively provides the amplification potential to take great content and make it truly viral. The broader the distribution, the higher the chance of sparking a viral trend.
Statistics on the business impact and ROI potential of viral marketing campaigns:
- Viral content generates over 3 times as many leads as non-viral content, according to Buzzsumo. 
- 79% of consumers said they would be convinced to buy a product through a branded video ad they shared, per MDG Advertising. 
- According to Gutenberg Technology, Small businesses saw an average 7% increase in revenues by running viral social campaigns. 
- Of customers acquired through viral campaigns, 22% made repeat purchases within 12 months vs 15% via other tactics, Nielsen reports. 
- A popular viral ad for Extra Gum generated 4 million views and lifted sales for the brand by 14% in just 2 weeks, per NewsCred. 
- According to Hubspot, Oreo received nearly 300 million earned impressions through their “You can still dunk in the dark” Tweet during a Super Bowl blackout. 
With the ability to achieve mass reach at low costs, viral marketing delivers significant impact – from brand awareness to consumer intent and loyalty.
Sources:  https://buzzsumo.com/blog/viral-marketing-examples/  https://www.mdgadvertising.com/marketing-insights/infographics/viral-video-marketing-statistics-and-trends/  https://www.gutenberg-technology.com/en/blog/viral-marketing-campaign-benefits-stats/  https://www.nielsen.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2019/04/viral-marketing-guide.pdf  https://www.newscred.com/blog/the-anatomy-of-a-viral-ad-campaign  https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/viral-marketing-examples
Checklist for developing a viral marketing strategy:
Define goals and objectives
- What business goals does viral content support? Brand awareness? Lead generation? Positioning?
- Set specific, measurable objectives like reach, engagement rate, and conversions.
Identify target audience
- Who is your ideal audience? Consider demographics, interests, values, communities.
- Where does this audience spend time and consume content online?
Brainstorm viral content formats.
- Explore different content types like videos, memes, quizzes, and contests that align with goals.
- Ideate creative concepts and angles likely to resonate and trigger sharing.
Create compelling content
- Produce high-quality, eye-catching content using emotional triggers like humour, surprise, and usefulness.
- Make it interactive, personalizable and easy for people to replicate and share
Seed content strategically
- Identify key influencers, publishers, and sites to partner with for content promotion.
- Post natively across owned social channels to build initial momentum.
- Run targeted ads to get on feeds of your audience and prompt engagement
- Use UTM parameters and analytics to identify best-performing content elements and platforms.
- Optimize distribution and remix creative based on data.
Viral Marketing FAQ
Q: What types of content can go viral?
Common viral content formats include funny videos, entertaining memes, interactive quizzes, social contests, helpful infographics, and trending hashtags.
Q: How do you create viral content?
Use humour, surprise, useful information, and creativity to make engaging, shareable content that resonates emotionally and offers social value.
Q: What triggers virality?
Viral triggers include humour, emotion, controversy, novelty, usefulness, creativity, and tapping into specific online communities and influencers.
Q: How does viral content support business goals?
Viral content builds brand awareness, delivers pay-per-click free impressions, generates leads, encourages product trials, and drives sales.
Q: How do you amplify viral content?
Leverage social media, influencers, paid promotion, relevant messaging, and analytics optimization to extend the reach and lifespan of viral content.
Viral Marketing Conclusion
Viral marketing delivers powerful business impact through goodwill, recommendations, and exponential reach. By identifying motivational triggers, optimizing for shareability, partnering with influencers, and tracking performance data, brands can create memorable campaigns with disruptive results and ROI.
Viral content succeeds by providing value to audiences rather than overtly promoting products. The most contagious marketing ideas spread joy, laughs, and useful information in creative new ways.