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!