What is viral marketing

What is viral marketing, and how to use it?

What is viral marketing?

Viral marketing is a strategic marketing technique that uses existing social networks to promote a product or brand. It’s a type of word-of-mouth advertising that utilizes online viral processes.

Viral marketing doodle

In layman’s words, it means to make your customers become your advertiser.

Why use viral marketing?

When you want to reach many target customers quickly, viral marketing is an effective way to do so. This inexpensive method can get your product in front of the right people and let them spread the word for you. For this reason, most major companies – from Dove to Microsoft – use it.

Different types of viral marketing tactics.

There are plenty of different ways to make a campaign viral. You can make your video go viral by providing a thoughtful message or perhaps asking users to forward an email to spread awareness. There are even websites that allow you to do both simultaneously!

You might also choose to implement a referral system where users receive rewards for sending new members. For this strategy to work, ensure an incentive to invite others.

How to create a viral marketing campaign?

You’re ready to create your campaign now that you know what viral marketing is and why it’s effective. Here are five steps to make it happen:

Step 1: Set goals

SMART goals header

What do you want the success of your campaign to look like? How will you know when you’ve succeeded? If you need help, try using a KPI (key performance indicator) tool like this.

Step 2: Create a story


For your campaign to go viral, you need to get people excited and talking about it. You can do that by creating an awesome video or compelling story. If your product is dull and lackluster, nobody will take an interest in it (and thus not share it). Instead of focusing on the product, focus on the story.

If your product is dull and lackluster, nobody will take an interest in it (and thus not share it). #viralmarketing Click To Tweet

Step 3: Market your campaign

Market campaign

Now that you have great content, you need to get people excited about it! Leverage your existing customer base and social media channels for best results. You can also use paid ads to promote your campaign. Try Facebook Ads or Twitter Ads for maximum exposure.

Step 4: Urge your customers to share


To make your campaign successful, you need people to share. Make sure users know the value of their contribution and how it will help businesses like yours succeed. Remind them of what they stand to gain (e.g., increased exposure) if they share the content.

You’ll need to get people excited about it to make your campaign viral. Your story must be compelling and accessible to spread (e.g., using social sharing buttons). And finally, don’t forget to ask your customers to support the project!

The benefits of viral marketing.

Some hidden benefits of having a viral marketing campaign are:

Benefit 1: It’s cheap.

In most cases, you can promote your campaign for free. For example, if you’re using Facebook Ads, all of your costs are paid by Facebook.

Benefit 2: You get a lot of exposure.  

When people talk about it and share it, that means you’ll have more potential customers seeing your product! This can be a great way to get your name out there.

Benefit 3: Better brand awareness.

It’s a lot easier for customers to remember your product when they can associate it with something enjoyable (e.g., the story you tell). This is great for businesses that sell a new product – they might not have been aware of you otherwise!

Benefit 4: Long-term success.

People trust their friends and peers more than ads. If your customers talk about your business to their family and friends, this will give you a massive boost in brand awareness.

The disadvantages of viral marketing.

Are there only benefits? Of course not! Drawbacks exist too.   

Disadvantage 1: Difficult to measure results

Since you don’t know precisely who will share your campaign, it’s a challenge to measure how successful it is. You’ll need to use a combination of KPIs and judgment from those creating the content.

Disadvantage 2: It’s unpredictable

You never know when your campaign will go viral. Your content might get shared a lot, or it might sit there collecting dust. This is why it can be challenging to measure success.

Disadvantage 3: You need the right audience

If you’re creating content for kids, your target market would be parents and educators. Viral marketing won’t work as well if you target a more specific audience (e.g., teen girls).

Disadvantage 4: Potential backlash  

Viral campaigns can push the boundaries of what’s considered “okay” by some people. If you create something that goes too far, you might end up with a lot of negative feedback. That’s why it’s essential to stay true to your brand and who you want to target (e.g., kids).

Viral marketing is excellent, but make sure you think through the process before starting!

Amazing viral marketing tools.

Here are some great tools to start a viral marketing campaign.


Use BuzzSumo to search for content that has been shared a lot in the past (e.g., viral videos). This is great for getting ideas and seeing what topics perform well with your target audience (e.g., preschoolers).


You’ll need to test it out and see what works as you create content. AdEspresso is a tool that makes it easier for Facebook page owners to create ads! This tool can split test different images, headlines, and website links.


To manage your influencer relationships, you can use BuzzStream. This platform makes it easier to keep track of the different bloggers and social media accounts that you collaborate with.

Examples of successful viral marketing campaigns.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches Campaign

Dove was the brains behind the Real Beauty Sketch project. The campaign aimed to encourage women to believe they’re more attractive than they realize. In this video marketing, an artist draws two sketches of a woman – one that he created based on her description and another described by someone else.

This campaign became an instant hit, with over 114 million times within a month. If you’ve not seen this one before, take a look! Dove is a brand that promotes positive body image for all women.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Back in summer 2014, everyone for charity for Motor Neurone Disease. After being challenged by a friend, you had to have an ice bucket dumped on your head or donate money to charity. This campaign raised $115 million in just months!

So, does viral marketing always work?

As you can see from the examples above, a campaign might go completely viral – or it might not make an impact at all. Instead of creating something that’s massively popular, you need to think about the audience you’re targeting. Producing content perfectly suited for your target market will be more likely to go viral.

For example, if you’re targeting preschoolers, creating a video might be your best bet. If you want to target teens obsessed with Snapchat filters, then social influencers are the way to go!


Viral marketing is excellent because it’s super-efficient for getting your brand in front of people. If you want to create a super successful campaign, try sticking true to your brand and keeping it simple!

Be sure to share this with someone 🙂