Viral Marketing 101: A Complete Guide for Businesses

By September 25th, 2013. No Comment

Viral Marketing Will It Blend

The Will It Blend campaign boosted sales 5x.

Viral marketing eludes most businesses, but you can achieve it.

Viral marketing is an area of marketing that is elusive to many businesses both small and large. Yet, there are some businesses that have tapped into the power of viral marketing, leveraged it and now dominate the Web with their presence.

Apple would be an example of viral marketing success. The iPod, iPhone and iPad are all examples of viral marketing campaigns that spread as people talked, the press talked and Apple talked.

The product created a stir for Apple, but all types of marketing channels were used by people to share the news about the products. All the talk led to a huge number of sales and some of the biggest profit numbers in history.

Your business can use viral marketing to dominate your target market and enjoy profitable growth and influence just as the juggernaut brands and businesses have successfully done.

Here is how you can do it…

What Is Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing Gagnam Style

PSY turned a viral video into millions in YouTube ad sales and concert/appearance fees.

First, you need to know exactly what viral marketing is and what it is not.

According to marketing guru, Seth Godin:

“Viral Marketing is an idea that spreads AND an idea that while it is spreading actually helps market your business or cause. Viral Marketing is NOT just anything that is viral. It must market your business in a tangible and useful way.”

A business might aim to get 10,000 YouTube views from their promotional video, but if the video does not incite a call to action or is not appealing enough to share and does not cement the company’s core values then viral marketing is not going to be the end result.

An example of successful YouTube viral marketing is the Blendtec Will It Blend campaign. The campaign shows a Blendtec product chopping up all sorts of things like phones to CDs. The video shows the power of the blender.

It’s entertaining to see things get blended that normally wouldn’t be put in a blender. People share the videos with their friends. Blendtec gains exposure and sales increase.

That is successful viral marketing.

Launching a viral marketing campaign is all about strategy. There are two areas of focus:

  • Target audience
  • Media channels

Defining The Target Audience

Viral Marketing Marie Forleo

Marie Forleo knew her target audience and pursued those people with passion and a little viral marketing.

For a viral marketing campaign to be effective you need a well-defined target audience.

Let’s use an author as an example.

If a new book is about dating success, target audience is single women between the ages of 25-32.

Marie Forleo is a marketing and lifestyle expert that used a specific target audience for her first book, Make Every Man Want You: How to be so irresistible you’ll barely keep from dating yourself.

The title has a viral-sounding nature or catch to it. That can be enough to get attention, but the focus on a specific audience helped in marketing this book. Marie was able to get reviews from editors of women’s magazines. People in the press and early readers were talking about it.

The book went viral when she self-published it.

Marie was able to get scores of reviews by journalists and bloggers, radio and TV interviews. Her email newsletter list grew exponentially also.

Identifying your target audience is paramount for viral marketing.

It allows you to choose a course or path and to remain faithful to that select audience. People want to know that your brand will not bail on them right when they feel that they need your service or product the most. Building trust and appeal is the foundation of successful long-term brand building and profit yielding viral marketing.

Choosing a Media Channels

The other half of viral the marketing mix is the media channels you opt to use to launch your campaign.

Entrepreneurs and brands today have an endless treasure trove of media channels that they can use for viral marketing, but the primary channels in today’s marketplace are:

  • Video
  • Blogging
  • Social media
  • Email marketing

Video can lead to priceless brand exposure and a soaring market share for a company. It lends itself so well to viral marketing because people on average, are highly visual. It is the quickest way for many to grasp a brand’s message. It is also easily shareable, which is the crux of what viral marketing is all about to in the first place.

Think back to the Will It Blend campaign and other campaigns like the Orabrush tongue brush video campaign.

Businesses need to ensure that their video is the best quality that they have the capability of producing. There is a tremendous number of affordable DSLR (advanced digital cameras) with HD (high definition) on the market today that can produce quality video for your video campaign. Also having a tripod and professional microphone are a given to really make your video shine. If your company is not in the position to splurge on such equipment at the moment, but all means wait until you can. It would not serve your brand very well to release poor quality videos.

Blogging is still a hot commodity when it comes to using it as a conduit for viral marketing. In this KISSmetrics infographic they cite how blogging or content creation should be not be neutral. Make a declaration with your firm’s content or blog post, be controversial, spark debate, start a challenge, just have something to say that speaks louder than mere words. When done right, content becomes shareable on unbelievable levels, which in turn is viral marketing at its core.

While social media can be an overwhelming medium because it is vast and there are dozens upon dozens of outlets that your business can use to spread your message, it is best to hone in on the top three for a viral marketing strategy.

Facebook is simply a juggernaut, Twitter is quick and concise and Pinterest is the visual engine that keeps going. With that said, your top three may be Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+. It’s about finding what works best for your brand and for your target audience.

These social media giants are rooted in presenting and sharing content. Polished content still rules the roost, but if it is brimming with quality by providing valuable and useful information, then it has a strong likelihood of being shared and commented on within social media circles.

Email is a channel where viral marketing can really take hold. People might find content hosted on a site like YouTube or your blog, but they’ll share it with friends on Facebook and via email.

You can use the power of your own email list by sending out some content that people on your list will want to share and forward to a friend.

The Viral Marketing Formula

Viral Marketing Orabrush

Orabrush created a story around its brand: Don't Forget to Clean Your Tongue.

What all four media channels have in common is that they are all about sharing, sharing, and sharing.

Creating a viral marketing message can be somewhat overwhelming, but if in doubt stick to the recommended formula:

  1. Engage! Create a Story
  2. Have a fabulous hook!
  3. Make it easy to share!
  4. Use a strategic call to action

To further expand on the last tip, a call to action is the single most reason why your company wants to launch a viral marketing campaign. It does not matter if you get 10,000 You Tube video views or if 800 people re-pinned your company logo, if your efforts are not tied to a compelling reason of why your brand’s products or services is the company for people to partner with or buy products from, in order to meet their own needs to make their own lives easier.

Brand awareness and offering value are the seeds of successful viral marketing.

What channels would you use first to build a viral marketing campaign?

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