Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.
We’ve all been exposed to it at one time or another…Viral marketing.Whether it’s a YouTube video that catches fire, a trending hashtag, or a viral giveaway that everyone is talking about, viral marketing campaigns are a regular occurrence in today’s digitally-powered social media world.But I’m sure you’ve asked this question before; “What makes a campaign go viral?”After all, as a marketer, wouldn’t it be nice to create a viral marketing campaign of your own?First, we need to define exactly what that is...
What is viral marketing?
Your interpretation of viral marketing may be different from mine, and my interpretation may be different from the next person. It all depends on your expectations. Viral for you may mean reaching 10 thousand people, for someone else it may mean reaching 1 million people…. It’s relative.Whatever your expectations, viral marketing is really about the level of control you have over the distribution of the content used in your campaign. Once strangers, onlookers, and other campaign participants take control of the content, it starts to enter viral territory. Instead of you controlling the distribution channels - be it ads, email campaigns, or social media messages - others are spreading the word on their own accord.As soon as you lose control of your campaign it has immediate implications on your business. If the campaign noise is positive, viral marketing can accelerate the growth of your business. If, however, the noise is negative, you run the risk of destroying your brand. So, if you want to create an environment for a campaign to go viral, be comfortable with giving up control.One example of a positive viral marketing campaign is the Ice Bucket Challenge, raising awareness for ALS on a global scale, to the extent that Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates participated!
While each viral campaign is slightly different, there are certain types of content and campaigns which tend to catch fire more than others. We take a look at 5 of these viral marketing tactics in this article.
1. Referral-Based Contests
It’s well documented that contests or giveaways are an excellent way to generate leads for a business at a low cost. But when it comes to creating a viral campaign, referral-based contests are the sweet spot.Referral-based contests tap into word-of-mouth marketing by incentivizing entrants to share the contest landing page with their friends and family. The “incentive” for sharing is usually the opportunity to win a prize. For example, each time an entrant shares their unique contest referral URL they accrue points for referral traffic, social media shares, and sign-ups. The more points they accumulate, the better their chances of winning.
ShortStack's Refer-a-Friend feature.View and Create Your OwnBy gamifying the sharing of your contest it creates a viral loop whereby one entry could organically generate numerous other participants.
2. Influencer Campaigns
If you’re unfamiliar with influencer marketing, the concept is fairly simple. An influencer is someone who has built a large and loyal following of a specific target audience, usually on social media. Influencer marketing is the process of identifying the most appropriate influencers for your business and collaborating with them on marketing campaigns to increase brand exposure and sales.Why run an influencer campaign? Well, research suggests that 89% of marketers get a better ROI from influencer marketing when compared with other marketing channels.
Influencer marketing ROI graph.But another major benefit of influencer campaigns is their potential to go viral. Unlike an ad, where the attention halts when you stop paying, when an influencer posts something on social media, that post builds momentum and interest over time. Combine this with the use of branded hashtags and several simultaneous influencer posts, and the chance of your campaign going viral is significantly increased.
3. Data Visualization
Representing data visually helps better communicate your desired message and increases the chance of someone sharing that information. Think about it, would you be more likely to share a beautifully designed graphic or a statistic quoted in text?Data visualization comes in many forms, from large-scale infographics to standalone graphs, interactive maps, tables, videos, or photographs. The primary elements that all of these things share are interesting data. For your campaign to go viral, original research and subsequent data visualization are where you will find the most shareable content.Beyond sharing your data visualization on social media; web moderators, publishers, and bloggers regularly seek compelling visual representations to feature on their websites. Why not give them the collateral they need?Something to consider when it comes to a campaign driven by data visualization is that the viral curve is not as steep as other tactics discussed in this article. It may take months before your graphics gain momentum, but once they do, the results are lasting.Here is an interesting example of data visualization which offers a unique way of highlighting a product’s features:
Creative data visualization example.
4. In-Sync Online and Offline Campaigns
Online and offline marketing campaigns are often siloed from each other, working in isolation, and vaguely pursuing the same business outcomes.Creating an aligned marketing strategy that has your online and offline efforts working in sync can assist in sending a campaign viral.How does this work?To start with, your social media content, email campaigns, ad copy, and other digital assets should all deliver the same message as your flyers, billboards, digital signage, promotional material, and event experience.If all of your content assets are consistent, then you need to adequately connect the online and offline components of your campaign so the whole thing is cohesive and works in unison. For example, QR codes are one way of attracting offline consumers to your online landing pages or offers.By combining the power of both online and offline marketing your campaign exposure and propensity to go viral increase.
5. Old Fashioned PR and Media Coverage
Even though viral marketing is more prevalent today, thanks to social media, it’s not a new phenomenon. Marketers have been experimenting with accelerated growth tactics for as long as a competitive business environment has existed. Whether it’s a guerrilla marketing stunt or some old-fashioned public relations and media coverage, the right kind of exposure can send your campaign viral.Of course, traditional PR is hard to obtain, especially for smaller businesses. If you want to be featured on the nightly news, a worldwide talk show, or on the front page of the New York Times, you need to do something to stand out (or have some seriously powerful relationships). If you can make it happen, though, the exposure for your brand is unparalleled.Streaming service NowTV hijacked the release of Jurassic Park 2 on their platform with a PR stunt in London which went viral. They created a massive statue of Jeff Goldblum, one of Jurassic Park’s star actors, in front of the London Bridge: NineDaves.
These are just 5 examples of viral marketing tactics you could use as inspiration for your next campaign.
Of course, they are not the only way to send a campaign viral!Virality comes from uniqueness, surprise, intrigue, and an embedded psychological desire to share.
Viral marketing is not about control, in fact, it’s more about giving up control and arming your audience with the tools and persuasion they need to take charge of your campaign.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for creating the viral effect, but you can learn from campaigns that have gone viral in the past.
How will you attempt to send your next marketing campaign viral?
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