Have you seen a popular cat video that came across your Facebook profile that your Aunt Margaret shared? You notice that said video reached over 12 million views. A cat video of a cat DJing with Skrillex has reached MILLIONS of views. That video went viral.
Virality is a term used in digital marketing to describe something that went viral. It’s also known as viral marketing.
Viral marketing is a business strategy that uses existing social networks to promote a product. Its name refers to how consumers spread information about a product with other people in their social networks, much in the same way that a virus spreads from one person to another.
Viral marketing is not an exact science. It’s not the case that if you want to create a viral marketing campaign you simply have to think about it, plan it, and then you have it. If only it was that simple.
Viral marketing is useful as a stand-alone marketing tool or as a part of a larger campaign that uses multiple kinds of marketing. It is especially attractive to smaller businesses or companies because viral marketing can be a cheaper alternative to traditional marketing efforts.
The basics of virality
The basis of viral marketing is in the spread of information by word-of-mouth, but modern technology has allowed the viral effect to include many Internet-based platforms as well.
The viral effect can spread through many different networks, including:
- Social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc)
- Video sharing sites (Youtube, Vimeo, etc)
- Web forums
Viral marketing typically supplies its audience with something of value for free. (Not to be confused with content marketing.) Viral marketing is often used in conjunction with other methods of marketing. This can be something as simple as an amusing song or game. Whatever the viral content is, it must encourage people to share with others so as many people as possible receive the content's message.
Content does not have to be covert to be viral. Political campaigns often create videos featuring sound clips of an opposing candidate saying something people may find offensive. Politicians hope that by pointing out an outrageous statement, the video will go viral and cause others to develop a negative attitude toward the targeted opponent.
Implementing viral marketing techniques
There is a common misconception that viral marketing depends on the ability to reliably create something extremely popular. In reality, a successful viral marketing campaign rests more on understanding how to connect with specific demographics by presenting them with valuable content.
Viral marketing is a customer-focused approach, so the first step is to identify the target demographic for a product and what they value the most in products, requiring marketers to research and analyze demographic data.
The faster a marketing message spreads, the more likely it is to go viral. Today, information shared via mobile technology is by far the fastest-moving information in the world.
Once a company knows what its target demographic wants and how they communicate, they begin creating content those people will want to share. Viral marketing is a continual, interactive process. A company that implements a viral campaign shouldn't simply let it run its course without adjustment.