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Viral Marketing: The Guide You Need to Rapid Brand Growth

Viral marketing is one of the best marketing strategies. That is because it engages people's attention to the fullest. Before diving into how to use viral marketing most efficiently, we must first understand it. This article introduces the most basic viral marketing concepts to a beginner.



What is Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing is a marketing or advertising strategy designed to be shared and promoted by other people. Typically it is done through social media, but it can also happen via word of mouth. Its goal is to inspire genuine curiosity and enthusiasm about a product or service because of its fast-growing popularity online.

In viral marketing, the customers become promoters or ambassadors for a brand’s offerings.  


How Does Viral Marketing Work?

Let us now answer the burning question:

How does viral marketing function? The answer is as follows:

  • You create and publish a fun, engaging picture or video.
  • The post appears on the social media feeds of your target audience.
  • People begin to engage with it by liking, following, forwarding, and sharing.
  • Word gets around from person to person as more and more people share the content.
  • It starts a chain of referrals where your company gains max exposure. That is because of word-of-mouth.

By incentivizing engagement and promotion, the system scales exponentially. It becomes a more cost-effective alternative to traditional marketing methods. Beating the algorithm on social networks is no cakewalk,  but viral marketing campaigns are worth the effort. 

Viral Marketing Infographic describes how it works and characteristics of viral marketing campaigns

The Basics of Viral Marketing Techniques

An easy-to-understand viral marketing definition is that:

  • It is generally a type of social media marketing.
  • Social viral posts inform and engage people about your product.
  • The term “viral marketing” is based on the speed and scale at which a marketing campaign spreads. 
  • It is an effective strategy because the audience handles the bulk of the marketing efforts.
  • These posts make their way to the seekers of products through widespread sharing. Hence, they create brand awareness in the best possible way.
  • Viral posts not only get the job done but also entertain people on their way.

In essence, viral marketing campaigns are able to spread rapidly due to their entertaining or informative content. One example of this is the marketing campaign for Popeyes' new chicken sandwich back in 2019. After posting a tweet on their Twitter account, the product quickly went viral and received responses from countless users as well as rival fast-food chains. As a result, the sandwich sold out within 2 weeks across the U.S.

Characteristics of Viral Marketing Campaigns

Before creating, let us first look into the characteristics of viral marketing campaigns. In most viral marketing campaigns, you may notice:

  • The content is free and accessible. Generally, the most viral content doesn’t require sign-ups or complicated steps to reshare.
  • The content must be genuine, as viral marketing is least effective when it sounds too commercial. Hence, you must ensure that all your posts are relevant to the customer. 
  • These campaigns make use of all sorts of mediums including: images (especially memes), videos, email, text messaging, free products or promotions
  • They appeal to the viewers' and users' emotions. Humorous content or serious causes can drive the highest engagement (e.g. share this tweet, sign the petition).
  • Campaigns sometimes perform best when boosted by influencers and content creators. These are people who have an existing follower base in the thousands.
  • Anyone can create a viral piece of content, be it a small to medium business or even an individual.
  • Content that is short, sweet, and to the point tends to perform best in terms of engagement. Avoid making long videos and wordy posts.
  • Visuals have a significant impact, particularly imagery but even more so for video.
  • The viral campaign should be creative. It should not contain the time-worn ideas of competitors.



The Best Way to Create Viral Marketing Campaigns

In order to create the perfect viral ads, you need to set an objective first. Ask yourself, "what do I hope to achieve with this specific campaign on social media platforms?" Your goals may include:

  • Brand awareness
  • Customer engagement
  • Conversions (newsletter sign-ups, registering an account, etc)

Once you have identified the primary goal, you can start working on the strategy. Follow the steps and tips below to build a fast-growing campaign:

Step #1: Narrow down your campaign to your product's target audience

Instead of curating content for everyone, get specific about who the product or service is for. This will allow you to create a more powerful impact as it will be tailored to the consumers' needs.

Step #2: Simplify your language and showcase a clear message

Avoid industry jargon and complex terms as much as possible. It takes out the fun and makes posts seem like study material.

Step #3: Identify the optimal social media channels for your strategy

This step requires a thorough understanding of your audience and of each platform. That is because the analytics will tell you where your product sells the most. Some rules of thumb are as follows:

  • Photos and images perform best on Instagram and Snapchat.
  • YouTube is the defacto place for hosting video, but there are other places to consider as well. Tik Tok is great for short-form videos for example. 
  • News updates and bite-sized information is perfect for Twitter's one-sixty-character posts.
  • LinkedIn is the best place for reaching professionals and executives.

Step #4: Offer incentives for sharing and promoting the content, such as giveaways or partnership opportunities

Step #5: Optimize your visual content by

  • Using professional and the highest quality images
  • Keeping the video lengths short (not more than three to five minutes)
  • Make sure the colors are attractive and consistent with the brand
  • Use easy to understand language and words that have positive connotations
  • On audio content such as podcasts, use a professional microphone to record clear audio

Rather than hoping to get lucky and going viral, set yourself up for success by following these best practices.

The Best Viral Marketing Examples Ever

Creating the most effective viral marketing campaigns requires research. For starters, you need to understand that the best way to learn is to look into existing viral ad campaigns. The following are the best examples of viral marketing that propelled a brand:

Example #1: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

In the year 2014, the ALS ice bucket challenge took the world of social media by storm. Over seventeen million people participated in the challenge. As a result, the campaign raised a whopping $115 million for the ALS Association. Here's how it worked:

  • First, people were invited to the challenge by previous participants. 
  • The invited participant had 24 hours to accept the challenge. 
  • If accepted, the participant had to empty a large bucket of ice water onto their heads
  • If they refused to have ice water poured on their heads, they had to donate money (although some variations asked participants to donate money as well)
  • After completing the challenge, the participant nominated a minimum of three of their friends or family members to participate.

The campaign achieved two fundamental things:

  • The challenge itself was fun and accessible
  • The use of video helped drive its virality
  • It imparted awareness on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis disease. 

Despite taking place only over the course of a few weeks, the campaign was a major success. 

Key takeaway: The challenge must be engaging and yet simple. If you challenge the people to climb Mt. Everest, no one will want to participate.

Example #2: Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club is a subscription one-dollar razor service that delivers razors directly to customers. DSC went from a start-up to a billion-dollar company. But how did DSC achieve this remarkable feat? The answer is viral marketing campaigns. 

The company's launch viral video is marketing gold as it has all the elements that make the content boom. They took an ordinary topic such as shaving and made it hilarious. In addition, the company also provided a real solution to a real problem.

Key takeaway: Keep your YouTube videos short (the DSC video is a minute and thirty-three seconds).

Example #3: ELF Cosmetics

ELF Cosmetics is a makeup brand that stands for “Eyes, Lips, Face”. The makeup company is one of the first to make use of TikTok as a marketing platform. ELF Cosmetics understood its target audience and created a marketing music video. The campaign's hashtag created a buzz where the zoomers began to post a video of their eyes, lips, and face.

Key takeaway: Understand your target demographic and create an ad that will organically reel them.

Example #4: Super Bowl

Super Bowl is famously competitive when it comes to viral marketing campaigns. That is because it garners almost 100 million viewers each year, giving advertisers the best opportunity to target as many consumers as possible. 

This year, General Motors’ marketing team injected humor into their Super Bowl commercial. Super Bowl is no stranger to featuring celebrities on its ad campaigns. and GM’s commercial was no exception. Their ad featured popular names such as Will Ferrel, Kenan Thompson, and Awkwafina. That is because people love seeing a familiar face no matter where. 

Key takeaways: Try to make people laugh, and bring popular, familiar faces to generate positive brand impressions.

Example #5: Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

Popeye's is one of the best examples to look at as they proved that viral ads have to do with strategy rather than luck. In August of 2019, the restaurant released its chicken sandwich. 

What started the viral chain was Popeyes’ funny response to Chic-fil-A restaurant. It successfully grabbed the Twitterverse’s attention. Due to this, there was even a shortage of the Popeye sandwich for some time.

Key takeaway: Invite some friendly competition with other brands to generate even more buzz.

Example #6: TOMS 

TOMS' #withoutshoes campaign garnered mass participation from the general public and celebrities alike. The movement took off on Instagram since the shoe brand announced its humanitarian mission. For every post with the #withoutshoes hashtag, the brand would donate a pair of new shoes to the homeless and needy children.

Key takeaway: Create organic messages that appeal to people's need to come together for a cause. That way, you gain the most organic connection with a vast audience!

Example #7: Dove Beauty

Dove Beauty's Facebook campaign was created by the best marketing giants. They hired real FBI sketch artists and had random people describe their features to them. The experiment was repeated with relatives of those people who defined the same people for the sketch.

Now the findings of the campaign showed that people are overly critical of themselves. And in a world where beauty standards cause body dysmorphia, the marketing campaign blew up within the first ten days of posting.

Key takeaway: You must create a campaign that brings forward awe-inspiring insights to get a million views. People love finding out truths that concern them!

Example #8: Charmin

The toilet paper brand is known for having created several successful viral campaigns. A little wit and a funny joke resulted in the company's most viral Twitter hashtag, #TweetFromTheSeat. The brand's marketing strategy encourages people to dare to be different.

Key takeaway: Try various things out of your comfort zone and take customer engagement to a whole new level like Charmin!

Advantages of Using Viral Marketing Campaigns

Each day, millions of people post different media on various social sites. Hence, getting people to notice your brand in online spaces is getting harder every day. That's why we need viral marketing campaigns to do all the heavy lifting. Some of the advantages of this marketing technique are as follows:

  • Boosts company reach
  • Builds a greater following
  • Increases brand popularity and international exposure
  • Exponential return on investment through increased sales
  • Grabs the attention of investors and financiers
  • Invites other businesses to work with you
  • Requires less investment compared to other types of marketing
  • Your product or service eclipses the competitors in terms of attention
  • It gives your business credibility as everyone begins to talk about your brand. People are more likely to buy from a shop if others know about it. 
  • Viral marketing campaigns open doors for your products into new avenues. They help you break into new marketplaces. That is something you cannot do with traditional marketing efforts.

Hence, you must begin curating your perfect viral marketing campaigns today!

Why You Need an Expert to Create Viral Marketing Campaigns

If you ever asked your friends or family why content goes viral on the internet, chances are, they have always given the same answer: luck played a part in it. 

While there is an element of truth in that statement, virality has more to do with strategic planning than luck.

Our professional viral marketing campaigns have proven successful time and again. If you use the proper tools and expertise, your content will almost always go viral. 

Some of the results-driven tools we deploy are as follows:

  • Optimal content production
  • Building and management of your unique community
  • The best social strategy that fits your brand
  • Influencer marketing to expand your reach
  • Paid social advertising

We wield many such tools to give you the best end results possible.

Here's how enlisting the help of specialists at SociallyIn can benefit you:

  • We leverage our years of social media knowledge to create the perfect strategy for you.
  • Our experts use cutting-edge tactics to create flawless executions.
  • SociallyIn's tailor-made campaigns capture the essence of your brand. And we also ensure the ordinary people will be able to connect with it.
  • In addition, we also train the companies and equip them with adequate tools. Hence, they can create perfect viral marketing campaigns on their own.
  • What's more, SociallyIn provides the most competitive rates. Hence, small businesses do not have to worry about spending a fortune on social media experts.

So, check out our Social Media Strategy service and Contact SociallyIn as soon as possible. 



Frequently Asked Questions

What type of content is considered “viral”?

When referring to marketing, "viral" means any content people begin to share that spreads rapidly and widely. 

Once an image or video begins to circulate, i.e., becomes viral, there is no halting its progress. Hence, such a marketing strategy is one of the most used strategies in today's digital world.  

Guerrilla marketing vs. viral marketing campaigns: what is the difference?

Guerrilla marketing is the unconventional strategy of targeting viral messages. It occurs through never-before-tried outlets. Viral marketing campaigns, on the other hand, do not depend on new avenues every time. You can use the same strategy as before and still manage to go viral.

With guerrilla marketing, you cannot try the same strategy as the one earlier. The two tremendous differences between the two are:

  • Guerrilla marketing is more expensive than viral marketing campaigns.
  • This marketing type fades away as fast as it fades in. It leaves a short-term impact on the people (in comparison to viral ads).
  • Viral marketing campaigns can be a one-person tactic or more. Guerrilla marketing always requires a team of experts.

Many companies have experienced tremendous success with guerrilla marketing. But, when it comes to choosing the better strategy, most opt for the viral technique.

Viral marketing vs. digital marketing: what is the difference?

A lot of people confuse viral campaigns with digital marketing. Yet, there are some key differences between the two terms. Some of these differences are as follows:

  • Viral marketing campaigns are almost always on social media platforms.
  • Digital marketing is a type of marketing that incorporates all digital media platforms. That includes: websites, television series, video games, etc.
  • Digital marketing content does not necessarily have to be shareable. But the viral strategy relies heavily on that aspect,
  • Viral market strategy is a subcategory of digital marketing. And digital marketing is the umbrella under which fall many types of marketing,
  • Virality relies on buzz words and emotions. Digital marketing is straightforward (it demands action through product qualities).

What is a viral marketing strategy?

Viral on social media meaning is marketing that focuses on two things:

  1. The shareability of the content
  2. Organic reach

In this strategy, the consumer base of the brand becomes the marketing tactic in and of itself. That happens because once you publish your ad, people begin to share the post without the need for you to boost. 

Let's Wrap Viral Marketing

Viral marketing campaigns are the twenty-first century's most widely used strategies. That is because, in a few seconds, you can get years' worth of benefits, all for an almost non-existent price. 

Small to medium companies should master the art of viral marketing. It will prove more beneficial than any other aspect of a business. For more information on the subject, be sure to check out SociallyIn.

Get a chance to discuss long-term business growth plans with industry professionals.


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Keith Kakadia

I am a native of New Orleans, LA with a passion for social media marketing, entrepreneurship, and making new connections. I enjoy the opportunity to work with amazing individuals and brands everyday.

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