Viral Marketing

Have you heard the phrase “gone viral” on the news and wondered what it meant?  Viral marketing is the use of social media to produce an increase in brand awareness or achieve objectives such as sales through peer to peer sharing.  The phrase gets its name from how the message spreads, from one person to another, much like a virus.  Consumers are encouraged to share information about a company, product or service through social media.   With the high level of information consumed on these channels, a successful viral campaign can be a cost-effective method to drive engagement.

There are four key elements to a successful viral marketing campaign:

  • Provides a message and media for effortless referral to others
  • Scales easily from small to very large
  • Utilizes existing communication networks
  • Appeals to a far-reaching audience

The internet is home to millions of viral promotions.  One of the most widely recognized is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which raised an estimated $115 million in donations to ALS research and reached as high as engaging President Obama.  Other viral efforts are less noble causes such as the endless dance and beauty challenges found on YouTube.

How do you know if a viral campaign is the right approach to engage for your credit union?

  • Investigate the “why” behind the initiative. Consider the original motivation for the message. Much like a virus, these campaigns can continue to evolve and change as they are distributed.  The Ice Bucket Challenge was initially created to encourage people to donate to ALS rather than dumping ice water on their heads.  However, because of the success of the viral campaign, more users posted funny and creative videos of themselves taking the plunge rather than contributing to the cause.  Consider the initial motivation and confirm all aspects align with your brand image.
  • Consider who else is sharing. Viral videos tend to attract participation from all over.  Before tying your name to a challenge, take some time to research who else has been involved.  Determine if these participants’ views and comments fit with your message before jumping on board.
  • Find ways to create a positive message that fits the purpose of your social media presence. Remember, you are sharing someone else’s message, but by putting it in your own words you preserve your voice and control the tone of your engagement.

Creating a viral marketing campaign takes time and a great deal of thought.  Some key considerations as you develop a viral marketing strategy include:

  • As viral campaigns are shared over social media channels, it is important for your message to be visually oriented. Strong graphics and powerful video makes the content easy to quickly process and distribute.  Be mindful, though, of your audience and ensure visuals cannot be interpreted in a way that is counter to your brand’s intent.
  • The success of a viral marketing campaign hinges on the success of stimulating emotions. One of the main reasons people spread viral content is because of the feeling it elicits. Choose the emotion you want to inspire in your audience and maximize the impact.
  • Your viral campaign must have a clear call to action. Determine the goal of the initiative, and as a result, design in a way that helps to drive action.
  • While launching the campaign, be sure to choose the most appropriate platform. It is inevitable that consumers will adopt the message across multiple channels, however in the initial launch choose the method that makes sense for your message.

Viral marketing is organic and cannot be forced.  Choosing the right message, platform and representation of your brand can help you achieve success in boosting your brand presence.

Britney Bailey

About Britney Bailey

Marketing Account Manager, Growth by Design

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