Cracking the code to viral marketing success

Viral marketing has long been a hot topic, and who doesn’t want to be the creator of the next viral sensation?

In this blog, we’re going to explore what it means to have a viral marketing campaign and what the key components are that make people stop scrolling, hit share and make a campaign spread like wildfire.

To try and understand the formula for a successful viral marketing campaign, we’ve created some top tips to get you thinking and dug out some great examples of viral marketing that are a bit of fun to reminisce over and have stood the test of time.

So, what is viral marketing? Keep reading to sink your teeth into our PMW take on viral marketing campaigns.

Getting to grips with the viral marketing definition and how viral marketing works:

The first step to creating a successful viral campaign would be to understand what a viral post is, and there’s nothing like starting off with a smidgeon of ambiguity! The exact classification of a viral post is slightly vague as there are no set numbers you need to achieve on certain platforms to define a post as ‘viral’. Here’s our attempt at explaining the confusing viral marketing definition:

A viral marketing strategy shares a company’s campaign message or information about their products, predominantly on social media platforms. Various numbers get thrown about when trying to define what a viral post is, and if it’s figures you’re after, it’s a bit tricky to gauge. However, we can tell you that a post is considered viral if it racks up a substantial number of interactions, relative to that industry, in a short space of time. For example, this could be a video receiving 5 million views within 1 week of posting.

Just to make it more mystifying, success measures differently on each social platform. On Instagram, a viral post could be considered something with over 100,000 likes and on LinkedIn a post that reaches around 45,000 reactions or 500 shares is extremely impressive due to the different size of audience and way that the post is interacted with.

Throwing another spanner into the works, what’s considered viral for a meme of a miserable cat, might not be the same numbers that are considered viral for your particular brand audience. You probably have a smaller audience than the entire population of planet Earth (but hey, don’t let us be the ones to stifle your ambition!), which means a viral post would be one that’s generated substantially more traction than your competitors. If your industry is small, even a few hundred shares could get your article or video spread to your entire audience, so relatively speaking, it would be considered viral.

Great, now that’s clear as mud, let’s get to the good stuff.

How to create a viral marketing campaign – top tips and viral marketing examples:

Unfortunately, there is no exact formula that goes into making a viral campaign successful and a lot of it hinges on being in the right place at the right time. Having said that, there are a lot of things you can consider when creating your campaign to stand the best chance of reaching that elusive viral status.

A viral marketing campaign may start off with a budget behind it for paid advertising, but what happens to make the post viral is a purely organic phenomenon. If you manage to achieve this all-powerful viral status, you will have an extremely cost-effective way of communicating your campaign message which is one of the huge advantages of viral marketing.

Here’s some brain fodder to get you off the ground with planning your content epidemic…

First of all, know yourself

While you’re mulling over your ambitions to have a fun campaign blasted all over the internet, first just take a moment to check that a viral campaign would be a good move for your brand image. If your own clients are relying on you to be serious, maybe creating a fun or controversial campaign isn’t the best move for you – however, with the right support from our creative geniuses, you might be surprised by what could be a big hit.

Whilst considering the limits that you could push with your audience, check exactly what it is that you want to achieve with a viral campaign. Most viral marketing campaigns usually have the goal of increased brand awareness, so if it’s a certain line of products or an event you want to push, make sure you’re clear about what your desired outcome is so that an effective plan can be put in place to support this.

As we’re a full-service marketing agency, we’ve not only got the talented crew to come up with creative concepts for you, but also the brains and experience to create a media plan that will get your message in front of your target audience and give it the best possible shot at becoming viral.

Who do you think you’re talking to?

Although there is a pinch of luck at play when a campaign reaches millions of people, you need to give it a fighting chance of becoming viral by targeting the right audiences.

Just like all good marketing campaigns, you need more than just a hunch about this information, you need cold hard facts (glorious data!) to be sure you’re targeting the right people and not aimlessly throwing money at something.

Our data wizards are specialists at finding and understanding your audience. Using specialist marketing tools, we can delve further and research the topics and trends that are currently grabbing their attention and therefore what’s likely to generate a buzz. It’s also essential we scope out your competition so that we can quite simply, do it better than them.

If you’ve got a celebrity or influencer contact that speaks to your audience, and they’re willing to endorse your campaign, it could give your campaign a huge boost; although you’d need to make sure that they are right for your campaign message. We have a trusty little black book of contacts that we’ve generated over years of experience in the marketing industry, which has enabled us to generate huge success for our clients.

Be real

Your chances of going viral are much higher if you come across as human. What better example of viral marketing is there to demonstrate being real, than Dove’s Real Beauty campaign that launched in 2004. The core of this campaign was to make women feel beautiful whilst embracing their imperfections in a response to growing frustration around the representation of ‘perfect’ women in the media. This built huge trust with consumers and got the audience involved by sharing their photos with the #mydovemessages hashtag.

Being real doesn’t just mean using real people, but it could mean using simple language that’s down to earth and speaks directly to your audience. Don’t over complicate things as you’re more likely to get a positive response with unmanipulated content that’s honest and authentic.

Offer value – embrace the daring, quirky and just plain weird

Before anything else, start with the basics of making sure that you have the right assets for relevant platforms, that it’s easy to share and posted at the right time of day for your key audience to interact with it. Next, make it worthy of being shared.

All viral campaigns offer value, and this value can come in many different shapes and forms. Although you don’t have to tick all these boxes, it’s important to consider what you’re offering. This could be entertainment value, something that is unique and has never been seen before, a bold statement that makes the viewer look good if they share it, or even practical value, as we all love to be helpful.

Tesco and St. John’s Ambulance joined forces in 2016 to create a baby grow that was designed with CPR instructions. The campaign that went with it featured a very cute baby and, you guessed it, it went viral. The image of CPR instructions inside a Tesco baby grow continues to be circulated due to its practical value and therefore carries on being great exposure for Tesco.

However, it doesn’t have to be all that serious to offer value, it can be as straightforward as excellent entertainment. Think of Dairy Milk’s ‘A Glass and a Half Full of Joy’ advert with a gorilla playing the drums. It was a fun, if not very bizarre, concept that was enjoyable and memorable. A lot can be said for being a bit off-the-wall; you might remember the craze created by the ALS ice bucket challenge? It raised money and awareness for the charity by encouraging people to film themselves having iced water poured over their head, share it and then nominate another three people to do the same. Being bold, or a bit odd, can really get you noticed, as well as generate a trend for others to jump on the bandwagon.

If you want to create a huge amount of noise with your campaign message, look no further than PMW. Our wise media wizards know exactly how to generate the right attention. There’s no need to commit to anything, just book a free consultation to say “hello” and we’ll let you know the ways we can make this happen for you.

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Ben Luff
Senior Social Media Manager

Article by:

Ben Luff -
Senior Social Media Manager

Ben has been responsible for developing social media and search strategies for large and medium accounts, such as Born Free, for more than three years.

A creative social media manager, Ben works with paid social and search to meet and exceed the digital objectives of a diverse set of clients. From content to advertising, Ben achieves fantastic results with a wide range of budgets.

Outside of work you’ll find him watching as much football as possible, supporting his favourite team, Liverpool, and experiencing plenty of live music.

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