Going viral is sometimes felt to be the holy grail of Internet marketing. You’ve probably heard this term in reference to trending music videos or advertisements, such as Gangam Style or Old Spice. Getting something to go viral has become the aim of many advertisers. Nothing may be a more effective and efficient means of getting your message across than viral marketing. However, it’s not easy and is far from an exact science. Still, the principles of viral marketing can significantly improve your online campaign, even if your videos don’t get nearly as many views as Nora the Piano Cat.

What is Viral Marketing?

What exactly does it mean to go viral? Viral marketing is a marketing technique that uses social networks to boost brand awareness or sales through self-replicating processes. Viral marketing campaigns encourage individuals to share the ad with their circle of friends, who in turn share with their friends, creating the potential for exponential growth in the advert’s exposure. The idea is akin to a virus that causes disease by replicating itself within a host. Viral marketing message have numerous forms, including videos, interactive games, images, text messages, email messages, and web pages.

Why Going Viral Can Help Your Business

Going viral has the ability to turn ‘a nobody’ into somebody. Did anyone even know who Rebecca Black was before her Friday video became widely popular? Campaigns that go viral touch thousands, if not millions of people, and the best part is that you have to do very little to spread that message. Your audience will spread your advertisement for you. The catch is that going viral is a complex, uncertain process. There is even speculation that it’s all just pure luck. However, there are a few principles commonly found among viral messages that can improve any marketing campaign, whether or not going viral is the aim. 

Principles Behind Viral Marketing

There are a number of principles common to all types of viral marketing campaigns. Here are the most common ones that have the potential to transform any marketing campaign:

  • Be Opinionated.  You want to develop an opinion and inspire emotion. Be loved or hated, not in between. People respond to emotions, whether they’re joyful, inspired, angry, or frustrated.
  • Do Something Noticeable. The best way to get noticed is to be unexpected. Like the Old Spice man who is suddenly, “on a horse,” surprise your audience.
  • Create a Story. Sure, you want to advertise your business, but viral marketing isn’t all about self-promotion. It’s about sharing stories people can relate to. Your business promotion should be subtle; the story you want to share should be the focus.
  • Make Sequels. Once people are familiar with your campaign, give them more. People love to see follow up content, and they’re more likely to watch something they are already familiar with. This is also another reason why you should create a story. Develop a plot and you’ll have your audience wondering what’s next, and coming back to find the answer.
  • Make it easy to share. People love to share. Sharing is the heart and soul of viral marketing. Allow people to download, link to, or embed your content. This will ensure that your message will spread as quickly and efficiently as possible. Like infectious viruses, they only transmit when they’re easy to share.
  • Connect with Comments. Listen to what people are saying about your viral marketing messages and respond. You can create follow up videos to their comments or improve your current campaign from thoughtful advice. 

Is Going Viral Really Possible?

Now before you jump into viral marketing, it’s important to note that it is neither easy nor necessarily recommended that you do so. While you should use the techniques of viral marketing to enhance your marketing campaign, going viral is not an exact science. In fact, it’s often pure luck, takes lots of planning and money, and sometimes depends on good timing. If you spend all of your energy trying to go viral, you are wasting your time. However, do be sure to utilize some or all of the principles of viral marketing. You audience will definitely be captivated and may be more likely to share your new campaign with their circle of friends!