Social media is a major part of our world.
Most of us use it in some form or another, whether for work, socializing with friends and family, or getting up to date on the latest news. Social media has become an avenue for communication, a tool to grow our professional pursuits, an outlet for our thoughts, and a source of information.
This is what makes social media so attractive to marketing departments. Where else can you freely promote your business with a personalized touch? Where else can you engage directly with your customers to build trust and loyalty?
But the world of social media moves fast. The landscape is ever-changing, and content is created, uploaded, and shared at a staggering pace. It can be difficult to promote yourself in such a saturated environment.
This is where viral marketing for social media can boost your brand. Capitalizing on social media’s ability to spread news quickly, you can use engaging content to turn your customers into brand advocates.
Marketers should ask themselves: what is customer obsession? And how can we harness it and turn it into promotion?
What is viral marketing?
Viral content is any content that has been shared extensively across the internet. Something about the content has struck a chord with audiences, and people have reacted by sharing it on social media, talking about it, and sometimes even reporting it on blogs and news sites.
The real successes can even reach mainstream media channels like news stations.
Viral marketing utilizes this phenomenon as a marketing strategy. Marketers produce advertising content intended to trigger mass-sharing across social media. You may wish to incorporate voice overs from actors in order to give your adverts a professional feel.
Adding voice overs to your video gives it more personality, making it easier for people to form a connection with your company, which leads to greater levels of customer engagement. It also results in a higher click through rate and increased return on investment. If you are involving other people in creating your video content you may want to look into how to create a successful video collaboration.
The hope is that this content will spread outside of the brand’s intended audience to a much wider, more global audience.
The term viral marketing was coined in 1996 in a Fast Company article titled: The Virus of Marketing.
“As much as we may fear or hate viruses both biological and computer varieties, these self-perpetuating, self-propagating entities have important lessons for marketers.”
Self-perpetuating and self-propagating define viral marketing. To spread an idea as far as possible with the least amount of time, effort, and expense. This is what makes viral marketing such an attractive tool for businesses. You can further support this through the use of idea management software that is used to organize your ideas and monitor their development.
The primary vehicle of viral marketing is social media. Social media works by expanding something’s reach, and that expansion can be rapid and exponential. If someone shares a post with two friends, those two friends share that post with two friends each, and then those friends share the post with two more friends…
You get the idea. By the end of the day, you might have yourself a viral hit! You can increase your chances of going viral by adopting a multistreaming approach that will help you reach more people and grow your business.
One way to boost your chances of having a successful viral marketing campaign is to involve someone that already has a strong social media presence. By contacting an influencer marketing agency they can pair you with a suitable influencer to create content promoting your product or services.
But it’s 2023—is viral marketing still a thing?
The concept has become a little diluted. Back in its heyday, when viral marketing was first becoming a buzz term, going viral was a rare and notable occurrence. If something went viral, everyone knew about it.
Nowadays, going viral is much more common. As social media platforms develop and their user bases grow, sharing content has never been so simple or more encouraged. Marketing departments can look at what makes some content so successful, and then create their own with the express goal of it becoming viral.
Modern shoppers are also turning away from old-school marketing techniques, preferring authenticity over what they perceive as corporate insincerity.
Marketers know that word-of-mouth advertising is worth its weight in gold. Viral marketing blends word-of-mouth with strategically planned marketing campaigns to spread positive brand awareness.
When audiences choose to share content, that’s sending a powerful message that your brand has struck a chord with audiences.
How can my business benefit from viral marketing?
Improve brand awareness
Viral marketing is all about scope. Content that is widely shared is seen by more people, who will continue to share it, growing its audience even more.
Free to use image sourced from Pexels
A good viral marketing campaign can catapult any brand to great heights, whether you’re an online brand or a retail store.
Add personality to your brand
Viral content tends to be unique, exciting, and relevant—that’s what makes audiences want to share it.
Some brands choose humor to drive engagement; some adopt timely social or political movements; some opt for a more serious approach.
However you choose to structure your viral marketing campaign, it’s an opportunity to inject your brand’s personality into your advertising. It’s a great way of showing your audience who you are and what you stand for.
You could also look at these logo design guide ideas in order to boost your brand and the awareness of your business. There are a number of benefits to visual branding, for example it helps you stand out from your competitors and adds personality to your company. This can help to foster customer loyalty and increase brand recognition.
Lower advertising costs
Viral marketing campaigns can be cheaper to run than traditional ones.
Most of the cost is up-front, in the planning and development stage. Once the content is distributed, it should propagate itself, and if you’re only posting to your brand’s social media feeds, you don’t even need to pay for ad space.
You’re banking on your content going viral, which means audiences will circulate it for you with minimal effort from your marketing team.
Turn customers into brand ambassadors
A viral marketing campaign can grow your audience, as well as bring your product to a whole new audience.
People spreading your content across social media become brand ambassadors, essentially advertising your product for free. You can encourage further advocacy through a call to action. If your target audience is small business owners, encourage engagement with CTAs like “check out our call center management guide.”
You can support your advertising campaign by using custom shipping boxes, allowing the delivery packaging to reinforce your brand advertising.
Making a good viral marketing campaign involves research, careful planning, and a little luck. Let’s look at some successes in the world of viral marketing.
And some failures.
Viral marketing often uses humor to great effect, and one example of this is the Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like campaign.
It began with a video featuring Isaiah Mustafa rhapsodizing about old Spice in various silly scenarios. The video was such a viral success that Old Spice used its quirky, irreverent format in all its marketing strategies going forward.
The campaign truly saved Old Spice.
At one time, you only ever bought Old Spice for your grandfather, but Proctor & Gamble knew they needed to appeal to a younger audience to survive. They capitalized on internet humor in a traditional ad format to great success.
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty proves that viral content doesn’t need to be humorous to be successful. You can structure your campaign around important messages, like diversity and inclusivity.
Dove’s campaign began in 2004 after a lengthy research effort by brand marketing expert Joah Santos in collaboration with several universities. They wanted to create a consumer-centric rather than product-centric approach to advertising.
The goal was clear: how can Dove make women feel beautiful?
Dove’s campaign has been running ever since. The brand’s focus on the very real issue of body positivity, of trying to empower customers, has launched many successful viral marketing campaigns—the most famous example being Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches.
Within the first ten years of the campaign, Dove’s sales jumped from $2.5 to $4 billion.
Dove created viral content that triggered a powerful emotional response in audiences around the world, has been viewed and shared by millions, and built a deeper relationship with its customers.
Splinter Cell: Conviction
An oddly-dressed man approaches customers at the Degree bar in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin.
He pulls a gun on them.
They… commit to buying “Splinter Cell: Conviction” immediately?
Obviously, that’s not what happened. The police came, realized the gun was fake, and presumably sighed in despair as they learned this stunt was a marketing campaign for Ubisoft’s new Splinter Cell game.
Luckily, nobody got hurt, and Ubisoft denounced the whole disaster. Pulling a gun on people probably isn’t the way you want to begin your viral marketing campaign.
Chevrolet’s “make your own Tahoe commercial” campaign strategy seemed like a good idea.
The plan was to encourage users to create and share their own content for the campaign. Chevrolet hoped that user-generated content would drive large amounts of engagement with the brand’s new car.
Users did create and share content for the campaign, but the majority of that content was a scathing indictment of Chevy’s environmental practices.
The Chevy Tahoe marketing blunder proves that understanding audiences is vital to a good marketing campaign. You never want your viral marketing campaign to end like this:
Screenshot from Chevy Apprentice
Here are 7 viral marketing strategies to boost your business
1. Know your audience
Your audience will be the first people to see your content—which means they’re also the first people who will share your content with others.
Your content’s tone, visuals, timing, and even social media platform will all depend on your target demographic.
Whether your industry is Aircall competitors or high-end fashion, your message will travel. But you need to please your audience first and foremost before your marketing campaign spreads further.
2. Know your platform
Each social media platform has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as being more attractive to different demographics.
If your audience skews older, Facebook might be the channel to focus on. If your audience is younger, YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok will have a greater impact.
Image sourced from Izea
Anything from a video advert to a single Tweet can become a viral hit. Consider which platforms you want to build brand awareness on, and structure your content accordingly.
You can use additional software, such as instagram analytics tools, to help make decisions about what works best for you.
3. Good timing
Timing is everything.
If you’re trying to capitalize on a trend or cultural moment, act quickly. A good example of this is Oreo’s Dunking in the Dark Tweet. During the 2013 Super Bowl, the venue experienced an hour-long power cut. As a response, Oreo jumped to action with a genius Tweet that immediately went viral.
Good scheduling is important for timing your content, too. You always want to hit the biggest audience straight out the gate, so understanding which times, days, and dates work best for your audience and platform is vital. You can use social media scheduling tools to help you keep on top of your content.
4. Get the tone right
We talked about how brands might use emotion to create viral content. It’s important to consider what kind of tone you’re trying to hit with your campaign.
Is your brand fun and light-hearted? Use humor to appeal to your audience. Is your brand socially active? Capitalize on issues and moments using passion and gravitas.
Finding your brand’s tone and nailing it creates consistency and buzz. We all know what to expect from an Old Spice commercial; when a new one comes out, people flock to watch knowing they’re in for a fun experience.
Emotions are powerful tools, so use them wisely.
5. Make unique content
For content to achieve viral status, it has to be special in some way. Few people are going to share something they’ve seen a thousand times before.
It can be difficult to create something unique. When crafting your viral marketing campaign, consider a few things:
- Research keywords to learn about relevant topics.
- Get to know your audience through market research, surveys, or online polls.
- Understand social media trends to plan proper strategies.
- Have brand tone guidelines to guide you.
- Present content in an appealing way.
- Brainstorm ideas.
6. Utilize user-generated content
Customers engage with user-generated content more than a brand’s own content.
Image sourced from Tint
You can encourage your customers to create content as part of your viral marketing campaign by starting a hashtag or offering incentives. Or you can jump on existing user-generated content to start a viral marketing campaign as Wendy’s did.
Someone on Twitter asked the company: “Yo @Wendys how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?”
To which Wendy’s replied: “18 million.”
It was a smart move by Wendy’s, who kickstarted the mass sharing of the original Tweet. The story didn’t stay confined to Twitter; people shared the content on other social media channels, and news sites reported extensively on the fun.
7. Encourage sharing
You can encourage your audience to share your posts by offering incentives like rewards, discounts, or a piece of the spotlight to grow their own following.
Hashtags are also a great way to encourage sharing. Hashtags can help social media users keep their feeds organized. They’re searchable, they invite curiosity, and you can even start a trending one of your own.
Consider using SEO in your posts, too. This can get your content to the top of search engines, which will encourage more clicks.
Can viral marketing boost your business?
Viral marketing can be a risk, but it can also come with great rewards.
Even viral marketing blunders create discussion. If all publicity is good publicity, perhaps there is no such thing as bad viral marketing.
Both the successes and the failures prove one thing: once your content is out in the world, it’s out of your hands. The people get to decide what to do with it.
The only way you can truly fail is if your content remains in the dark. So make viral content work best for you by following these simple tips.