While the concept of viral marketing is not new (who hasn’t heard of word of mouth marketing?), the rise of social media has given it new shape and direction. In its simplest form, viral marketing means getting other people to share your content. But the power of the internet enables your message to be heard by thousands, if not millions, in a very short span of time.
For a small business owner, word of mouth publicity is generally regarded as the best advertisement. People tend to trust their friends’ words more than they do an advertising campaign or a promotional email. If you have noticed some of the recent videos and campaigns that have gone viral, you will be aware that this form of publicity does not always require a huge budget – but on the flip side, you can’t always be sure that your message will be shared.
A successful viral marketing campaign can often be the best promotion method with a very high ROI. For increasing brand awareness, catching the attention of your target market, and even getting some media attention, viral marketing can be an efficient strategy. There is no tried-and-tested formula to for a successful viral campaign, but understanding viral marketing does give you a better shot.
So how do you give your message the best chance of going ‘viral’?
Simplicity is the key
Most successful viral campaigns have focused on one single idea – something that will engage the target market. There should be something interesting, something memorable that people will want to share. In the social media world, people have very short attention spans – if your message is uninteresting or takes too long to get the point across, it will not be remembered, or shared.
Make it bold, playful, and easy to share
Is the idea new, exciting, and fun? If you are willing to laugh at yourself, playing up stereotypes or using satire can be helpful. Everybody likes to laugh, and clever humour has the best chance of being shared. Even a simple ‘tell-me-a-story’ style can work if you make it engaging, at the same time communicating everything you want about your product. Your message must also be easy to transmit – through emails, social media shares, websites and blogs.
Let your message ‘stick’
Viral campaigns have a short lifespan – if you want your product or service to be remembered, you must be willing to follow up through active social media campaigns. Acknowledge those who shared your message, reply to comments on all channels and continue to reward loyal customers. It goes without saying that your product or service should live up to its reputation, encouraging your customers to stay loyal.
Offering something for free is the best way of getting people to share your message. After all, you are using their resources for your advertising. If you can get people to feel that they are being rewarded, that they are sharing something informational or something of value to their network of contacts, you have the best chance of success. The rewards do not have to be large – getting anything for free is exciting to most.
The risk – negative publicity
While there are some who believe that any publicity is good publicity, negative viral publicity is definitely not beneficial to any business. If your product or service has had several bad reviews recently, it might not be the right time for a viral marketing campaign. Once your message is out there, it is impossible to control its direction. If your audience interprets your message in a wrong way, it can take off negatively and you will be left doing damage control. If good word of mouth is the best promotional strategy, bad word of mouth can tarnish your brand and its reputation.
You cannot ensure success for your viral marketing campaign, so it should not be your top priority. It is best to consider viral marketing as a bonus, and focus on creating an honest, reputable brand that people love. But it is a reality that online marketing is inevitable in the current marketing landscape.