Viral Marketing Initiatives


Have you ever watched a video or seen a social media challenge that pulled you in, inspired you, or motivated you in a way that you had to participate in it or share it with a friend or two or ten? You were part of viral marketing! Viral marketing happens when “customers act as advertisers by promoting a product through word-of-mouse.”

Why do videos and campaigns go viral?

Does a company have control over a campaign or video going viral? Although it’s up to the viewers and followers to make a campaign go viral – they’re the ones sharing – to some extent, a company can impact if their campaign goes viral. Five factors that can help a campaign going viral are discussed below.

Evoke Emotions and Feelings

When viewers stumble upon a post or video that moves them – makes them laugh or cry – they are more apt to share. In fact, the viewer “must first enjoy viewing (or feel entertained) before a positive attitude can be formed…and (then) voluntarily share it.”

Studies show that “the greater the intensity of feeling the content evokes, the more likely people are to share it.” Tugging at the heart strings or making someone laugh makes the person connect with the video and its content. A great example of this is the Pantene “Deaf Violin Player.” Just listen to what happened when my 9th grade social media students stumbled upon it…

Budweiser’s “Best Bud’s” gave that warm feeling of a good friend who needs to be by your side – the imagery and music added to the effect.

Be Timely

By being timely, focusing on the what’s going on right now, and what people are concerned with, you are more apt to grab the viewers attention and evoke their emotions (noted above). Sometimes timing is simply spur-of-the-moment, taking advantage of the unexpected. Being in the right place, at the right time, and using it to your advantage.

Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” immediately playing off the “darkness” or Arby’s taking advantage of Will Pharrell’s hat looking like their logo are great examples of being in the right place at the right time. On a more serious level, Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” campaign comes at a time when there’s much focus on all the unrealistic images of what a girl or woman should look like.

Sprout Social shares great tips on how to use great timing. (Sprout Social shares great tips on how to use great timing.)

Be Positive and Inspiring

With so much negativity in the news today viewers are attracted to stories of inspiration, overcoming struggles and beating the odds, an of dreams coming true despite obstacles.

Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” and Pantene’s “Deaf Violin Player” are inspiring and positive – showing it’s alright to be you!

Be Engaging

People want to be a part of something – whether it’s a cause, sharing their opinion, asking questions, or participating in an event. The more you can involve your viewers, engage them in a cause or activity, or give them the opportunity to share their voice, the greater the chance they will share the activity and link with others.

ALS’ Ice Bucket Challenge encouraged people to get involved in a good cause – finding a cure for ALS. “The Dress – Black and Blue or White and Gold?” had viewers involved in sharing their opinion on the color of the dress – who doesn’t like to share their opinion? Comedy Central’s “Search Game” led viewers on searches through its ads to find the answers about the new host.

Be Easy to Share

No matter how much someone enjoys a video clip, blog, or other post, if it’s not easy to share they will simply move on (without sharing). However, if all they have to do is click a button and press share (maybe even add their own comment with the share) the chances of going viral increases substantially. Dr. Ralph F. Wilson refers to it as providing “effortless transfer to others.”

Here’s some of the ways the above campaigns made it easy to share:

What’s your favorite campaign or video that’s gone viral? Please share below!



Differentiation is not only for education

Today, differentiation in the classroom is one of the hot topics for educators, but it’s also a word used in business to refer to companies trying to differentiate themselves from the competitor! Today’s post is not about the classroom but rather on how two coffee companies differentiate themselves, with the help of social media  Go grab yourself some “joe” and read on!

Coffee and Social Media – One Size (or Brand) Does Not Fit All

If you ask any coffee drinker what they prefer – Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts – I’m pretty certain they will have a strong opinion one way or the other, and they will provide you with their reasons. A quick scroll through Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks’ social media sites and you will see they are very different. The feel and impression each site elicits is unique to that company – each staying consistent with their company’s mission, vision, and image. A couple Facebook posts illustrate this point – images one and two are full of loud color or life-sized cup – that’s DD; images three and four show warmth and connection – Starbucks!

Their Mission Statements and Values

It’s not surprising the social media posts are different for each company – after all, one is all about fun, while the other focuses on inspiring and nurturing the human spirit. Can you guess which one is which?

Dunkin’ Donuts original mission was to “make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores.”. Today, each franchise is allowed to have its own mission statement, but they need to follow the Dunkin’ Brands values and guiding principles:

honesty…transparency…humility…integrity…respectfulness…fairness…responsibility…leadership…innovation…execution…social stewardship…fun.

And fun is definitely what is happening on DD’s social media, as seen on this DD’s YouTube video:

Starbucks’ mission is much different. It is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Their values include:

creating a culture of warmth and belonging…acting with courage…challenging the status quo…being present…connecting with transparency…delivering our best… holding ourselves responsible for results.

One visit to Starbucks’ social media platforms and the message is shared, as this YouTube video demonstrates:

Even though the messages and personalities of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are different and unique to each company, they are similar with one thing – they both, for the most part, are following social media best practices.

Following Social Media Best Practices

Kaplan and Haenlein recommend ten great points for companies to follow when selecting and using social media. In a nutshell (or coffee bean) they are:

  1.  Choose carefully – you must be able to be active on the platforms you select
  2. Make the application your own – show your personality
  3. Ensure activity alignment – keep your message and personality consistent on all platforms
  4. Integrate social media with traditional media – similar to #3
  5. Access for all – make sure your staff has access
  6. Be active –  which ties to #1. You must be interactive – it’s a two-way conversation!
  7. Be interesting – show your true colors – be engaging.
  8. Be humble – it’s ok if customers complain – that’s how you find out how you can improve – and show you care by quickly responding (the reason for #1 and #6)
  9. Be unprofessional – show your human side (but within reason)
  10. Be honest and respect the rules of the game 

Dunkin’ Donuts prides itself on building relationships with their customer. They have that small community feel, even though they are international. In 2012, when discussing social media, DD’s web communication manager, Tyler Cy, stated, “This is not our space, it’s their (customer) space.” Dunkin’ Donuts tries to respond to customer complaints and has a cross-functional team for communications, public relations, and interaction. One thing I noted, however, when I visited the Dunkin’ Donuts Facebook page and Twitter site was there were often complaints that were not responded to and the ones that were responded to sounded ‘canned.’ 

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I would have to say Starbucks’ has a leg up on Dunkin’ Donuts with their responses. (See below)

Starbucks also prides itself on building a relationship with their customer, showing they value each person. Howard Schultz, CEO states “…Investing in our coffee, our people and the communities we serve will remain at our core…” A quick look at Starbucks’ social media and it is quickly apparent they mean what they say – they appear to genuinely care about the customer:

Both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have stayed true to who they are when it comes to promotion. It’s no wonder Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts rank top in social media!

Go get a refill, then comment below which you prefer – Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts…I can’t wait to hear your opinion!