Viral marketing is a pretty hot buzz word on the web these days . . . in case you hadn’t noticed.
A few years ago, to most people ‘going viral’ meant it was time for an embarrassing visit to the local sexual health clinic.
But mention the V-word these days, and most web-savvy folk think of something else entirely.
So what the hell is viral marketing, exactly? (If you already know the answer, feel free to skip the rest of this article).
“Going Viral”: A brief guide for the uninitiated
The term ‘viral marketing’ was actually coined in the mid 1990s, but only in the last few years has it really become a household phrase.
The concept is fairly self-explanatory. A ‘viral’ piece of content – be it a video, photo, news article or what have you – is something that passes from person to person, multiplying in popularity and spreading out across the web at an exponential rate. LIKE A VIRUS!
The viral process in action
- Person A finds a funny photo on the web, and shares it with his friends, Person B and Person C, because he thinks they’ll like it.
- B and C both agree that it’s a pretty hilarious photo, and both share it with a few of their friends.
- The friends of B and C then share it with their friends, who share it with their friends, and so on and so forth.
- Within a few days, the photo has been viewed by tens of thousands of people around the world.
The popularity of viral content is self-sustaining – a kind of snowball effect. The more it gets seen, the more it gets shared. And the more it gets shared, the more it gets seen.
It’s not the creator who makes a piece of content viral – it’s the people who share it. The more interesting/useful/entertaining the content, the further and faster it’s likely to spread.
So that’s ‘viral’ – what about the ‘marketing’ part?
Using viral content as a marketing tool doesn’t take much more effort than creating the content in the first place.
A successful piece of viral blog content will naturally draw people to the site it originated from. If you’re trying to market your blog and get more exposure, publishing something that goes viral can give you a huge boost in traffic and incoming links.
If you’re running a business, viral content can generate a tonne of publicity for you. Many global brands have created highly entertaining and amusing videos, specifically intended to go viral on YouTube and generate buzz for a particular product.
Case in point: the ‘Tea Partay’ video, created by Smirnoff to promote their Raw Tea line of beverages.
The amusing nature of this video helped it to go viral and spread far and wide across the web, generating a sh*tload of publicity for Smirnoff in the process.
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Viral marketing content can penetrate far deeper than conventional advertising, because it doesn’t come directly from the marketer. It comes from people that we know and trust.
You might not pay much attention to a Smirnoff advertisement on TV, but you’re probably interested in the video that your best friend just shared on Facebook.
So what’s the secret recipe?
Now that we’ve wrapped our heads around the concept of viral marketing, how do we actually put it into practice? How do you create a piece of web content that’s destined to go viral and spread like the plague?
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment, where I’ll explain a couple of tried and tested viral strategies that you can use to promote your website.
In the meantime, if you have any viral marketing insights to share, we’d love to hear about them. Please leave us a comment below.