Going viral is the dream of many a business owner (and quite a few marketers too). It can almost instantly turn the fortunes of a company around and bring in hundreds of new customers overnight. Best of all, it’s all free. Other people do the marketing for you.
It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? In this post, I’m going to give you an introduction to viral marketing, how it’s done and whether it’s worth it.
What do you mean by going “viral?”
Something unique about online marketing is that your campaigns can grow organically past your original audience. Everybody has the ability to share anything they see on the internet with their family and friends. If you create engaging marketing, it’ll get shared. If it’s REALLY engaging, it’ll get shared again, and again, AND AGAIN!
When you go viral, your campaign (or content) starts to get shared so rapidly over a short period of time that hundreds of thousands of people end up seeing it. People love the content so much that they just can’t help themselves, they want everybody else to see it too!
The great thing about this is, if the content is to do with your business then literally hundreds of thousands of people will become aware of you.
Wait, so people will share my marketing for me for free?
Yes and no. One thing many people don’t realize is that a lot of so called “viral marketing” is just actual marketing. Many viral videos start off as paid advertisements that are targeted at an audience that will love them and want to share them.
Money is used to start the momentum for a lot of campaigns and that’s not to mention the money spent on creating the content itself. Whether it’s a silly video or an image, it’s going to cost to have it made.
So viral marketing seems like it’d be cheap, but really it’s anything but.
So what’s the best way to go viral?
Companies that truly go viral, don’t plan it, it just happens to them. Maybe they make a funny video, thinking nothing of it, then wake up a week later to find their inbox flooded with emails because somebody in Japan found their video hilarious and shared it with friends.
Actually attempting to go viral more often than not doesn’t work. Part of a lot of viral content is its authenticity. Trying to pander to an audience can often lead to an apathetic reaction or even worse backlash.
Like any other piece of content on the internet, your marketing will be open to comment, so if it’s not from a genuine place it’ll be torn apart immediately.
The best strategy to use for any marketing is to understand your audience and to be passionate about creating content that they enjoy and that entertains them. Think about what would make you click “Share,” then think about what would make your customers click “Share” too.
One example of marketing that often goes viral are Super Bowl ads, as their main purpose is to entertain rather than to drum up business. A good piece of viral marketing is 90% entertainment.
Having a plan in place for viral marketing is important
The biggest downside to a viral marketing campaign is that there are no guarantees. Since your campaign is depending on other people to share your content, that means a big part of its success is completely out of your control.
If your content doesn’t resonate at all, your whole campaign will have been a waste of money. So any viral campaign should be well thought out and executed. Like any other marketing campaign, you need to consider what will happen if you don’t succeed.
A viral campaign has a lot more risk to it than a regular campaign. If nobody is interested in the campaign, you’ve wasted your money as your main goal was to grow organic traffic. At least with a more traditional online marketing campaign, you will be more focused on other goals such as obtaining leads and converting them into sales, which leads to more revenue.
There’s a reason many viral campaigns come from large, international businesses. They have the money to waste!
But even if your viral campaign is a major success, it can be problematic. Many small businesses that have gone viral find that they get such an influx of new orders over such a small amount of time that their business can’t handle it.
To put it in perspective, imagine you made a video for your business that goes viral and almost immediately you find 10,000 emails in your inbox for new orders. Can you fulfill those orders in a timely manner? If not, then going viral might actually hurt your business.
So should you try to go viral?
Personally, I think there are more important areas to focus on for a business.
Trying to go viral is a lot like trying to become famous. You could spend years of your life trying and never get anywhere. Or you could be more realistic and focus elsewhere.
Instead of trying to go viral, it’s best to create marketing campaigns that resonate with your customers and content that is shareable. The better your online content is, the more people will want to read it and the more likely they’ll be to show it to their friends.
Your business doesn’t have to go viral to achieve success. Even a few shares from your loyal customers can create enough positive word-of-mouth to bring in new business.