• Tom Lewis

What is Viral Marketing?



From memes to trending Tik Tok sounds, viral marketing has had its footprint in the marketing world for quite some time.


You may remember the popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral during the summer of 2014. With thousands of participants came millions of views, and the awareness helped raise $220 million worldwide for charities and research for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease).


This example proves that virality can and does work effectively (to the tune of millions of dollars, no less). However, the expectation is that you'll instantly start to earn the big bucks and fame— which couldn't be farther from the truth.


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What is Viral Marketing?


Social media content is considered viral if it receives a certain amount of traction online. What qualifies as "viral" changes over the years. In the early days of YouTube, a video with a million views over the span of a week would be considered popular. Today, getting a million views on Tik Tok in just a few hours is not only not unheard of— but it's kind of expected.


Viral marketing is a tactic marketers will use in moderation to scale consumer interest in their brand, product, or service. For it to work, you have to stay on top of trends and create content that evokes an emotional response (whether that's anger, sadness, or excitement).


It's not as easy as it sounds, and it's never a guarantee— which is why you should use this marketing strategy with caution.


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Why Viral Marketing DOES Work


Viral marketing works to help you get a boost in sales in a short amount of time. If you need instant cash flow, creating a viral marketing campaign can help inject quick cash into your business (Disclaimer: Sometimes).


A thriving piece of content can also put your company at the forefront of meaningful conversations, which can spread brand awareness. And if you utilize influencer marketing, you can see an uptick in your company's reputation and discoverability by having hundreds of user-generated content gushing about your product, service, or message.


In short, the pros of Viral Marketing are:


  • Gets the word out about your brand

  • Quick cash inflow

  • Free advertising (unless you use influencers)

  • Builds organic like, know, and trust


Why Viral Marketing DOESN'T Work


Viral content, more often than not, happens by accident. While you can craft a potentially viral video through hooks, storytelling, and quick-paced editing, it's no guarantee.


That's the problem with the idea of viral marketing: people expect it to make their business. But it can also break it.


There's always the risk that your business can suffer from the harmful impact of a famous piece of content. Maybe the messaging was off, but your tone of voice is misconstrued, or maybe people just wholeheartedly disagree with your message altogether.


The backlash of bad press, while salvageable, can take years to mend.


On the other hand, businesses that are not prepared to go viral, more often than not, get whiplash from the sudden increase in attention. Here are some situations when this type of marketing is bad for business:


  • You get overbooked and have to cancel some potential clients

  • An influx of e-commerce sales jeopardizes the quality of your product (which can result in negative reviews)

  • You find yourself completely running out of materials

  • Hitting tremendous obstacles with distribution


Suffice to say, if you want to use viral marketing campaigns, you need to be prepared.


The cons of Viral Marketing are:


  • Not consistent

  • No guarantees

  • Hard to analyze

  • Difficult to replicate

  • Not a long-term marketing solution

  • Potential backlash

  • Decrease in sales/reputation over time


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Need help coming up with your own viral marketing ideas? Let's talk about it during your first FREE consultation.


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