How to Create a Viral Marketing Campaign: With Examples!

The first thing you need to know about viral marketing is this: There’s never a guarantee that your viral idea will actually catch on. Putting yourself in the best possible situation to go viral is possible, and I’ll give you the tools in this article to possibly go viral.

Even if your viral marketing idea doesn’t catch on, these are still solid content marketing principles that will better any campaign.

Viral marketing: How to win at going BIG

Have strong visuals

In nearly every case of viral marketing, a strong visual component is present. Using videos and images which are directly related to the campaign are essential. Even when you’re trying to go viral through email, a highly text based medium, you still need some great photos.

When choosing your image, make sure that it:

  • Matches with your brand in some way. This is not the time to go off-message.
  • Has a humorous, informative, or surprising angle.
  • A touch of surprise never hurt anyone…except heart attack victims.

The image may be the thing that actually goes viral, the text will likely just be supporting. Take a look at the most retweeted tweet of all time, a clever piece of marketing from Ellen and the Oscars:

Do you think anyone cares about the text?

Have a plan for the message

If it looks like a viral marketing campaign is an accident, you’re wrong. Pretty much all of them have plenty of planning behind them. When you’re crafting your plan, you need to make sure that what you create stays on message with your brand, and follows your language.

The key to viral marketing is not being viral, it’s keeping people around after. If you create a completely off-message piece of viral content, and people check to see the rest of your stuff and it’s very different, you’ve just wasted yours and their time.

This tweet from Snickers wouldn’t have been anywhere near as effective if it didn’t use one of their stock images, and incorporate with their ‘you’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign:

Create an emotional response

Every single viral marketing campaign that has ever existed has done so because of emotion. You have to include a strong emotional reaction as part of your content or it will be ignored in today’s marketing environment.

Most go for a laugh. But you can pull heart strings, create exhilarating emotions like, or create an aura around your product:

This was the right emotion for Google as they considered what their audience will react to. There’re also sure to take a dig at Apple, with their disappearing 3.5mm jack being very unpopular.

Edit your idea down to the simplest point

Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. We’ve heard that advice again and again. With viral marketing, where you’re trying to trigger an immediate reaction, that includes hitting the ‘Share’ button, you can’t be complicated.

Don’t try to add more to your viral campaign once you have your idea. Instead, try to take away as much as you can from it in order for it’s message to still be clear. Here’s one of Wal-Mart’s most viral Facebook posts:

walmart viral marketing

One picture, a simple question. They didn’t go on about the beauty of spring, and what flower that was, or anything else. They trimmed it right down to the very meat of the content.

Effectively launch and push your campaign

Planning the right content won’t mean anything if you don’t have great timing, and great follow through. Choosing the platform where you have the biggest following is important. More people = more chances of people hitting share. Our YouTube views service can help get things going, but it’s your audience that will ultimately decided if you go viral.

You need to launch it at the moment when most of your audience is online, this is even important on YouTube, and you should also pay attention to the time when they’re most likely to share.

You’ll learn this through your own data. Keep track of your shares and when your audience is online. You can see times when they’re more likely to make a comment, and times when they’re more likely to share. Aim for the sharing!

Once you’ve launched it on the page where it is hosted, you can follow up with other social platforms. You may want to go viral on YouTube, but shares on Facebook and Twitter will help. You may want to go viral on Facebook, but email marketing can push people there. Have a plan for the push after the launch.

If you want an example of a viral marketing campaign being pushed at the right time, try looking at…all of them. For one of my favorite examples, let’s look at Nike Football:

Let’s go over the points above for this video:

  • Strong visuals – They play inside of a beautiful arena, check on that.
  • A plan for the message – Wear Nike to be like your soccer heroes, check.
  • Emotional response – Many laughs were had, along with the beauty of sport, check.
  • Edit the idea – Kids on the soccer field pretending to be their heroes, one of them is for laughs, check.
  • Effectively launch campaignPushed out the day before the launch of Euro 2016, that’s a big check.

How to Create a Viral Marketing Campaign in 2017

  • The first thing you need to know about viral marketing is this: There’s never a guarantee that your viral idea will actually catch on. Putting yourself in the best possible situation to go viral is possible, and I’ll give you the tools in this article to possibly go viral.Even if your viral marketing idea doesn’t catch on, these are still solid content marketing principles that will better any campaign.
  • Strong visuals are key. In nearly every case of viral marketing, a strong visual component is present. Using videos and images which are directly related to the campaign are essential. Even when you’re trying to go viral through email, a highly text based medium, you still need some great photos.
  • Have a clear and affirmative plan for your message.
    If it looks like a viral marketing campaign is an accident, you’re wrong. Pretty much all of them have plenty of planning behind them. When you’re crafting your plan, you need to make sure that what you create stays on message with your brand, and follows your language.
  • Create an emotional response. Every single viral marketing campaign that has ever existed has done so because of emotion. You have to include a strong emotional reaction as part of your content or it will be ignored in today’s marketing environment. Most go for a laugh. But you can pull heart strings, create exhilarating emotions like, or create an aura around your product.
  • Edit your idea down to the simplest point. “Keep it simple, stupid” is a message we’ve all heard over and over—but it’s a wise one. With viral marketing, where you’re trying to trigger an immediate reaction, that includes hitting the “Share” button, you can’t be complicated. Don’t try to add more to your viral campaign once you have your idea. Instead, try to take away as much as you can from it in order for its message to still be clear.
  • Feature image Chatawan / Shutterstock.