What Is Viral Marketing and What Is It All About?

what is viral marketing

What is viral marketing?

Viral marketing, also known as viral advertising, refers to marketing that seeks to exploit online trends and social behavior to produce exponential increases in brand awareness, content sharing, rapid sales and other marketing objectives.

The “viral” part of the name is attributed to the ways in which viral marketing techniques achieve promotional goals, often mimicking the spread of computer viruses through methods that trigger self-replicating behaviors, such as word of mouth. Viral spread of information online is mostly attributed to the social nature of the transmission of information on the World Wide Web.

Viral marketing differs from other advertising methods, because it is not paid advertisement. Although viral content can be shared by corporate sponsors, it doesn’t mean that the actual campaigns are paid for, nor do they need to be.

Instead, viral marketing relies on the quality of content being shared and the social outreach of the people sharing it.

The ultimate goal of viral marketing is to reach individuals with high social networking potential that can help spread information on a very rapid basis to a very broad audience, meeting the objectives set forth for the viral marketing campaign, no matter if it leaves a short or a long standing impression.

What defines viral marketing as “viral”?

Viral marketing that works needs to meet three specific criteria to transform an ordinary message into a viral one.

Having the right Messengers

Three types of messengers intervene in the process of causing information to go viral, each one corresponding to a different stage in the process. The first type of messenger is the market expert. This is the first individual, or group of individuals, to be exposed to the message before it goes viral.

This is because market experts are “in the know” and up to date with trends. These experts, often known as authorities or influencers, then pass the message to their different social connections. These social connections are spread among many online subcultures that serve as a bridge for the message to be spread further from the initial connection.

The last messenger involved is the salesperson or marketer, who then amplifies the message by making it more persuasive and relevant, spreading it further to meet the initial marketing goal.

Providing the right message

To go viral, a message is required to have a “must see” ring to it. It must be memorable and interesting enough to become a truly infectious phenomenon.

In simpler words, the message needs to be something that people will want to show to their connections.

Being in the right environment

Although it is true that the popularity of a message cannot be predicted, changes in the environment and context in which the message is intended to be spread can lead to great results. Timing and context surrounding the launch of a message are crucial to make it go viral.

How does viral marketing work?

The viral process starts when information reaches a “susceptible” user and that user becomes “infected”, which means that the user accepts the idea, shares the idea with others and “infects” them with it. From that point forward, the process becomes self-replicating behavior.

An example would be a user that shares a video with 100 other users through a given social media channel. Each one of those users share the same video with 100 other users, and so on. Due to this, the message gets spread across many platforms and reaches many, many people.

Once the message gets spread through repeating behavior like email forwarding, social media sharing and instant messaging, it is considered viral.

Pros and Cons

The advantages of a viral marketing service are high credibility, low costs, great reach, high efficiency and the opportunity of continuous promotional

Reasons for the wild popularity of viral marketing include, but are not limited to:

  • Socializing and networking, which have gotten people closer than ever before.
  • A seemingly endless amount of potential methods and vehicles to deliver the message, with mobile devices as a prime example of the physical means facilitating the spread of content online.
  • Viral marketing is one of the most cost effective methods for promoting business related activities.
  • And resources are readily available online, and are easy to use and implement in any type of campaign.

In spite of the risks involved, viral marketing has the ability to draw in the greatest potential audience at a convincingly low cost, dramatically increasing the outreach of your business.

The main disadvantages of using viral marketing for driving marketing goals include:

  • Association with unknown individuals and groups: The strength of viral marketing heavily depends on how a message is transmitted from one person to another. People and audiences that you would rather not interact with can easily be reached this way.
  • Spam threats: Viral marketing can lead to two forms of spam issues when not correctly planned. Your campaign will either come up as a Spamming campaign, or you might become the target of spammers and unsolicited contacts.
  • And It may not work to promote financial based offers depending on the type of audience that you end up reaching.

Usual Strategies that make things go viral

  • Publishing content based on proven frameworks by finding old content that did well when it went viral, and crush it with something even better. The key is to identify gaps in that content and fill those gaps with something that is relevant for the time of the planned release. Then, start promoting like there is no tomorrow!
  • Delivering content by Word of mouth. Social, functional, and emotional factors attached to an item can get people talking about it. This is especially useful when promoting products.
  • Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advertising games, eBooks, software, images or even text messages. Choose accordingly.
  • Customer participation and polling services.
  • Plain classic email forwarding.
  • Using Buzzwords to invoke a word or phrase that becomes very popular for a period of time.
  • And Online advertising.

Ready to learn more about viral marketing?

Read The Four Elements of Powerful Viral Marketing Campaigns

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