Viral Marketing Can Bring You 100,000 Views Overnight – And Here’s How
It used to be that if your brand didn’t have a huge marketing budget and a full staff of advertising experts, you’d be lost in the crowd.
Today the marketplace is more crowded than ever, but smaller businesses have one card up their sleeve that they didn’t have before: viral marketing. Competing against big companies with 7-figure budgets doesn’t mean you have to give up on your amazing service or product. It just means that you have to think outside the box and explore more unconventional strategies than can turn your underdog position into an advantage. Viral marketing campaigns are made for this. Using creativity and social media savvy, many small businesses can stand their ground against the Goliaths of their market.
However, like David’s slingshot, viral marketing is only effective when applied with skill. There’s a lot more to it than slapping a cute photo on Facebook and waiting for the “like’s” to flood in. A good viral campaign is based on extensive planning, clear vision, emotional impact on the audience and precise timing. These points make all the difference between a huge success and a colossal waste of time and money.
Get to know the people on the other side of the sharing button
The average American today sees hundreds of social media posts, not to mention 300-700 ads and marketing messages, every single day. In all of that noise, why are they going to pay attention to your post, much less share it and make it go viral? Let’s take a look at how viral marketing fits into the psychology of the audience.
- Collective need: The campaign should identify some need or interest that is shared by many people, and where there’s a void in the market.
- Relevancy: Your campaign has to be on the front line of pop culture. It speaks to your viewers exactly at the moment they see it. It has to be totally new – people will scroll past even the best post if they’ve already seen something like it.
- Value: A viral marketing campaign is a sort of exchange with the audience. You give them something interesting and they spread your message for you. Your content has to both provide value in itself and value in being shared. Maybe your viewers feel that it’s important to share it, that their friends will benefit from seeing it or that they’ll get a status boost from sharing.
- Promote their agenda: Your campaign should align with the life agenda of your viewers. Play on what is important to them, how perceive the world and how they want to be perceived. They’ll naturally feel that they relate to your brand.
Plan for success
It only takes one click to launch a viral marketing campaign, but the most successful ones are the product of serious planning. Of course, your finished content has to come across as natural or it won’t hit that personal note. Think of it like being a jazz musician who practices for thousands of hours to sound spontaneous in his improve solo. The more effort you put into laying the groundwork, the better you know your target audience and the more focused your central message, the more space you have to create content with the touch of spontaneity that gets people excited.
Start by refining the three pillars of your campaign: subject, idea and message. Once these are clear, you can develop content that brings them across directly. Keep in mind that you want to offer value to your audience – that’s one key difference between viral marketing and conventional advertising. Your viewers should feel like they’re getting something from your brand, whether it’s a free new feature on your app or simply a good laugh.
Visuals always have a stronger impact than text. Even if your campaign is mostly text-based, come up with an image or video to support it. Choose something that’s surprising, that will make people laugh or give them a double take. People share posts because they have a strong emotional reaction to them. It could be joy, empathy, excitement, humor, anger or anything else. Whatever the emotion, if it comes as an instant burst of energy viewers will be compelled to share what they’ve seen.
So what reaction are you going for? What triggers your audience? What association do you want to cultivate with your brand, and how is your content going to convey that impression immediately?
Launching your campaign
Once you’ve figured all of this out, you can launch your campaign and watch it spread. Timing is key. You have to launch at a strategic moment, and knowing your audience is critical. When are they online, and when are they on your social media platforms? Launching at the right time can mean the difference between a post spreading like wildfire or languishing on the bottom of everyone’s news feed.
This goes double if your campaign builds on a recent trend. Connecting to one can feed rocket fuel to your campaign, but keep in mind that most hot new trends will be last year’s news within 72 hours. If it’s based on an idea that’s popular now, your content will be outdated by the time it gets out. You have to be on the sharp edge of what’s culturally relevant, forward thinking and not afraid to take risks.
Learn from the best: “Who Won Booking Summer?”
One great example of viral marketing success is Booking.com’s “Who Won Booking Summer?” campaign. Summer is the peak season for spur-of-the-moment trips. Booking.com had just put out new features that made last-minute reservations easier, and to generate excitement they asked users to send in photos from their summer adventures. The photos were then turned into personalized GIF’s by the company and shared back. That campaign hit all the key targets for viral success. Not only was it fun and relevant, it contained a playful competitive edge to get people engaged. It launched at just the right time, created a dialogue between the brand and the audience, enhanced the brand’s positive associations, and in the end it gave something of value to the viewers.
Once you establish the structure of your campaign and it’s starting to pick up speed, you can fine-tune your landing page to maximize the conversion rate. It’s important that your post looks good on social media, including mobile. Make sure all your layout is attractive, especially the header and thumbnail. Your title and description should make people eager to see more. Even your call to action should add value to your campaign. For example, some successful viral marketers report that changing your sharing button from “Share now!” to something like “Show your friends!” or “Spread the word!” can make a huge difference in your conversion rate. Remember, people spread viral campaigns because they connect to them personally.
If your article, video or image is already being shared but not going viral, small changes like this might give you just the leg up you need.
Don’t despair if your first attempt falls flat. Many viral marketing campaigns fail, and it’s almost impossible to say why some catch on and others don’t. However, by avoiding some common pitfalls you can boost your chances of success. Keep it simple. Stick to one or two main ideas that will have an immediate impact. Research shows that within three seconds, most online viewers will decide whether to share or move on to something else.
As much as possible, let your campaign spread organically. Be sincere and don’t push your product. Trying to force things almost always backfires in viral marketing. Rather than blast your audience, plan well and choose the right time to launch. Once it’s really rolling, you can start to monetize, but doing it too much or too early on will give your content too much of an advertising feel and put people off.
Finally, make sure your server can handle the huge increase in traffic if your campaign takes off!
Viral marketing can be the strongest weapon in your marketing arsenal. It can have a huge effect on sales and brand awareness even with a tiny budget. Fortune favors the bold, with viral campaigns more than anything. They demand your maximum creativity and marketing intuition, and they must be used with the courage to break out of the conventions of conservative marketing. If you are up to it, the guidelines in this article will set you on the path to viral success.