What Is Viral Marketing and Its Purpose?
by Robert McNicholas on November, 21 2018
Viral marketing is one of today’s hottest buzzwords. What’s the buzz all about?
Viral marketing sounds like a supremely nasty advertising trick, a combo of the flu and one of those annoying commercials that sticks in your head for ages.
But in actuality, it’s neither of those things; to go viral, it has to be the opposite of annoying. In fact, viral marketing is among the holy grails of promotion. What is viral marketing? And does your business need it?
Viral Marketing, Defined Three Ways
Let’s jump right into the definition.
Google ‘viral marketing’ and this is, in part, what Wikipedia says about it: viral marketing “refer[s] to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networking services and other technologies to try to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of viruses.”
Discarding the extra words, we can define viral marketing as anything that promotes something (company, product, organization, charity, idea, etc.) in a highly shareable and appealing way.
You’ve probably been exposed to viral marketing and not even realized it. If you’ve been sent a funny YouTube video that’s promoted by some company, you’ve participated in viral marketing. (Think Blendtec’s Will It Blend? series.)
If you’ve shared an online quiz sponsored by a hip coffee chain, you’ve shared viral marketing.
See how easy it is? And I bet few of your friends have told you to knock it off. The content is so appealing that no one really cares that it’s also a form of marketing.
But the message sticks regardless.
Not all of the best examples of viral marketing are for profit. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was last year’s viral marketing poster child, and it benefited a charity.
Another viral marketing campaign encourages breast cancer prevention and awareness. So despite its name, viral marketing isn’t necessarily bad.
What Makes Marketing Go Viral?
What’s the difference between viral marketing and just plain old commercials
Viral marketing is designed to be easily and readily shared. This makes it a shoo-in for social media.
Viral marketing gains views quickly and rapidly. Thanks to its catchy content, it tends to make the rounds as quickly as… well, a nasty cold in a crowded office building, for lack of a better simile.
Once it’s out there, viral marketing is passed from one user to the next. Again, rather like a cold, it tends to explode onto the scene, getting shared all around one group to another. It’s not at all unusual for viral marketing videos to be seen by millions of people in a relatively short time.
This is why viral marketing is such a key concept for advertising. When you have a memorable message that your target audience itself adopts and shares, you have a very good thing.
Do You Need Viral Marketing?
The answer to this question depends very much on your own business circumstances. While we’d all love to win some prestigious marketing award for Coolest Campaign Ever, it might not be realistic or even feasible. Here are a few things to consider before the marketing part of your brain starts thinking viral
Is my customer base likely to be on Facebook, YouTube, or whatever shareable media platform I want to use for my campaign?
Are they likely to share this with their friends?
If I’m a local business, will I benefit from a far-flung viral campaign? Or will I have a better return if I focus on contacting my customers in a more direct and personal way?
If the marketing campaign takes off, is my business ready to take on more orders?
Only you know the answers to these questions about viral marketing. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to the Techspert Services blog, as we continue to bring you news and ideas your business can use!