Viral marketing is a strategy that uses social networks that already exist to promote an event, service, or product. The name comes from how consumers spread information across the social networks in the same way that a virus can spread from one person to another.
The basis of viral marketing is the spread of information by word of mouth but modern technology has made it much easier.
Viral marketing can be due partly to luck, but there is also the creativity and preparation behind the campaign.
Advantages of Using Viral Marketing
There are several advantages of using viral marketing for event planners.
1. Cheap to Implement: While your campaign may need a little push, such as paid promotion on social media, as it gets picked up your audience does the sharing for you and you can pull back on your advertising expenses.
2. Great for Future Growth and Your Brand: With the right creativity, you have the potential to reach a huge audience and develop a memorable brand. Your future initiatives are more likely to reach a large audience thanks to the brand awareness you received in your viral campaign.
3. The Most Powerful Form of Marketing: Since it’s the people’s choice to share, viral marketing is the most powerful form of marketing.
People will always want to listen to what friends are talking about. It’s also not invasive and the decision to take part and share will always come from the user.
4. Fast Growth: Success in business can really happen fast, but viral marketing is one of the very few tactics that have the potential to create fast growth in just a short amount of time. However, you don’t even need to have overnight success in order to be considered successful with viral marketing; steady, consistent growth is still helpful.
5. Mainstream Media Exposure: While you may not think you need mainstream media, no one can deny the audience and power it still holds.
When done correctly, viral marketing gives media outlets a reason to cover you without paying or petitioning for it. It also creates more buzz as smaller media outlets are following stories that are being pushed out by big names.
6. Increased Credibility: The simple factor is that recognition comes with acceptance and trust. When your event goes viral and grabs the attention of new audiences, more people will give it a chance, listen and trust your brand.
Example #1: The Blair Witch Project
One of the biggest examples of viral marketing actually happened before social media. In 1999, Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick started drumming up buzz for their movie, “The Blair Witch Project.”
They capitalized on the realistic look of the project to build a campaign that suggested the footage was real. This made the film's trailer spread like wild fire as people were convinced it was real footage.
Example #2: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
A more recent example of viral marketing was in 2014 with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
This campaign raised $115 million in the span of just eight weeks. Over 17 million people participated and many celebrities also took part in the challenge that we are still familiar with today.
Example #3: Real Beauty Sketches Campaign
Another example is the “Real Beauty Sketches Campaign” created by Dove. The campaign was used to empower women when it comes to the way they look. It was a short film featuring a trained sketch artist showing two portraits based on the description given to them and how they were then perceived by strangers.
With portraits placed side-by-side that had notable differences, the campaign was designed to show “you are more beautiful than you think.”
Remember, there isn’t an exact formula in order to make your viral marketing campaign a success and it’s not possible to perfectly predict when you can make or break a viral marketing campaign.