Lets go Viral! Marketing on social media has become an integral part of every business’ strategy because of the enormity of consumers using these communication outlets. From Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, to Snapchat and Instagram, a single video, photo, or hashtag can grow a company’s presence incredibly because of the ability to share instantly. Consumers look to social media to communicate and interact with each other. This also includes the direct engagement with their favorite brands and businesses. These activities have open doors for a new wave of marketing: viral. But not every effort is successful in going viral. There’s no exact science to it but there are characteristics of a viral marketing campaign that can help in the success of its run.

  1. Mass Appeal

Social media is a world of cultures, languages, and beliefs. So when a marketing campaign is created, its important to be decisive in choosing the target audience. For a campaign to go “Viral” it must have mass appeal. People want to interact and share things they can relate to. But in order to see millions of views, shares, likes, or votes, it needs to be attractive to..well..millions. For example, in 2016, Apple released two videos promoting their Apple Music service. The first featured Hip Hop artist Drake working out in a gym while singing pop star Taylor Swift’s hit ‘Bad Blood’. The second video shows Taylor Swift running on a treadmill while listening to Drake’s song ‘Jumpman’. See below:

Apple Music – Drake vs Bench Press

Apple Music – Taylor Swift vs Treadmill

The campaign combined two of the biggest artists in music, from their respective music genres, added a comedic factor with both artists embarrassing themselves, and promoted their new streaming service. Apple hit over 5 million views on Youtube with these two videos and the songs saw spikes in sales on iTunes. Mass Appeal.

2. Simplicity

Twitter is 140 characters or less. You can post a photo on Instagram or Snapchat in seconds. People like simplicity. This is key when creating a viral marketing campaign. Simple hashtags or instructions will increase the likelihood of people sharing and taking part. Take the #mannequinchallenge for example. This was a viral challenge that incorporated a popular song by Rae Sremmurd called ‘Black Beatles’ and it made people.. stand still. As simple as it sounds, it was a huge success! Everyone from Beyonce to the New York Football Giants took part in it. Even on her political run for the Presidency, Senator Hillary Clinton took part in the challenge. Although it was created by kids in school, for a brand to take part in viral challenges can be very important because it creates or maintains relevancy. For Hillary Clinton, it kept her name in headlines with a younger audience during an important time of her campaign.

ABC News – Hillary Clinton’s Mannequin Challenge

Just think.. Millions of people watched..people standing still. Simple. But Viral.

3. Trigger Emotions

Viral marketing is very similar to your traditional methods of marketing: Trigger something emotional in your viewers. This doesn’t mean to make them cry every chance you get. These emotions can be anger, happiness, laughter, or other. Regardless of your target emotion, when someone feels a way about your campaign, it will entice a response. A great example of triggering emotions is the ALS #IceBucketChallenge. This social media challenge compelled people to dump a bucket full of ice water on themselves on video and tag friends to join in. The purpose was to raise awareness and funding for ALS research and it worked. In the end, the ALS Association raised over $100 million, and inspired names like Mark Zuckerberg, Martha Stewart, Justin Timberlake, Oprah, Bill Gates, and hundreds more to post their own videos (Olenski, 2015).

Celebrity ALS #IceBucketChallenge

You want people to feel apart of a cause or movement because this will entice them to share with their friends. Every challenge or viral marketing campaign raises some sort of brand awareness. In the case of the ALS #IceBucketChallenge, awareness and funding was raised for an unfortunate disease. Many people were not aware of the disease at all. Although this was to benefit a non-profit organization in the ALS Association, their objective of creating awareness was reached simply by the sharing and involvement of people around the world.

4. No Ads

People don’t want to feel like their being advertised fto..even if they are. Stay away from obnoxious logos, branding, and slogans aside from the catchy hashtag. People want things to feel genuine and unique because that’s what social media is meant to be, personal.

5. FREE!!!!!!

People don’t want to pay to take part in your marketing campaign. Twitter.. Free. Instagram..Free. Snapchat..Free. If they are on a free service and utilize it they way they do, why would anyone charge to take part in a viral campaign? Keep it free of charge.







Olenski, Steve. 2015. Elements of a Viral Marketing Campaign. Retrieved on May 29, 2017 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveolenski/2015/12/23/elements-of-a-viral marketing-campaign/#13f8681435a0