Viral marketing—having others tell and spread your story for you—is a lot like lightning: What appears to be a spontaneous event, occurring often out of nowhere, is actually a concentration of a whole lot of energy, resulting in a big flash and thundering sparks.
Also like lightning, the success of viral marketing efforts is often difficult to replicate—lightning rarely strikes the same place twice. But, with an understanding of what viral marketing is and a strategically integrated approach to communications, viral marketing can be profoundly “electric.”
In fact, some marketing experts believe that viral marketing campaigns have a greater return on investment than practically any other promotion strategy, if done right. Successful viral marketing campaigns can boost brand awareness, engage target audiences, lead to media coverage or sales, and create brand champions among followers.
If your business or organization is looking to explore a viral marketing campaign, we have a few pointers for you from our Viral Marketing Blue Paper®!
Aim to give away products or services.
Most viral marketing programs give away valuable products or services to attract immediate attention or branded giveaways like t-shirts or laptop cases. Free attracts attention. This attention allows for further notice to be brought to other desirable things that a business has to offer. This in turn can bring valuable e-mail addresses, advertising revenue and e-commerce sales opportunities.
Make it easy to share and entirely scalable.
Viruses only spread when they’re easy to transmit. In viral marketing, the medium that carries your marketing message must be easy to transfer and replicate: e-mails, websites, videos, graphics, software downloads. Also consider that success of viral marketing campaigns is often difficult to predict. While the urge to be realistic and hope for considerable yet small levels of initial success, be prepared to handle large success, too. Don’t create a viral marketing website with servers lacking the capacity to support a large influx of traffic and don’t offer a discount or freebie if your business can’t follow through. For newbies to viral marketing, trying testing the waters with a generous but fair discount or a small giveaway, like a flash drive wallet or mobile accessory pouch.
Make sure your viral marketing strategy is brave but playful.
The two most common reasons that videos and memes—a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet—can go viral relate to shock or humor or both. Go for the latter. The more fun you have, the more fun others will, too. Consider playing up stereotypes of your brand and turn them around into something positive with viral messages.
Remember to acknowledge users while staying true to the original viral message.
Engage people with the viral message—respond to those who share the message via social media channels and act fast to answer any questions regarding it elsewhere. Give audiences a piece of the viral marketing spotlight by sharing their comments with your followers or friends. Also consider tying engagement to a raffle (of course, be sure to check the rules for online raffles in your state and with social media sites first)—enter everyone who comments, re-tweets or shares your message in a drawing to win prizes like a Chill and Grill Outdoor Kit or a Backpacker Beach Chair.
Always, always, always make efforts to continue the discussion.
Know that all viral campaigns don’t last forever. Predict the end and get out while you’re still on top, but continue to respond to audiences who reference or promote the viral message long after the campaign has ended.
Viral marketing can be hit or miss—just like lightning. But with a well thought-out plan, your business will be well on the way to online and social success.