So You Want to Go Viral: 4 Tips that Can Help

So You Want to Go Viral: 4 Tips that Can Help

While there’s no silver bullet in viral marketing, we’ve got a few best-practices tips that can help.

Many marketing teams set out to create a viral campaign only to have their hard work fall flat. While there’s no silver bullet in viral marketing, we’ve got a few best-practices tips that can help.

But first, what is it? Viral marketing is “viral” because it spreads like a virus among populations. Someone sees, experiences, or does something promoted or created by a marketing team and is so rewarded by it—through humor, fun, fulfillment, insight, or something else—that he or she is compelled to share it with friends who, in turn, share it with their friends. Voila—a marketing virus.

So here we go: Four tips that can help your program “go viral:”

1. Make a Plan

Planning sounds obvious, and it is something we at FrogDog speak about often. Don’t assume it’s optional, especially with something as tricky as a viral marketing campaign. If you aren’t careful, you could waste effort and funds on something that falls flat or, yes, catches fire and does nothing to help visibility and sales.

How does the campaign fit in with your brand promise? How does it mesh with your other marketing activities? How does it appeal to your target audience? How will you get the campaign into the right hands to get it started? How does the campaign compel people to act as you need them to act in response? Think these things through before you begin.

2. Make it Desirable

You need to have something compelling to offer if you want your program to go viral.

Common viral efforts involve a game, something funny, or something that grabs eyeballs and doesn’t let them go. If the game, humor, or visual appeals to the right group, it can work. Just ensure that the diversion ties back to your organization, whether through building your brand or promoting a product.

BlendTec, the maker of the BlendTec Total Blender, has had tremendous success with its viral video campaign, Will it Blend. Will it Blend videos have over 174 million views on YouTube and over 400,000 YouTube channel subscribers. In the campaign, the company founder and videos’ star, Tom Dickson, blends unusual items to show the power of the blenders his company makes. People have become such fans that they write in and make special blend-this requests and suggestions.

Why does the BlendTec campaign work? It’s earnest, it shows the quality of their products, and it’s fascinating to watch.

This tip isn’t limited to selling to consumers, keep in mind. Companies that sell to businesses offer key audiences valuable articles, research, and information. Retailers often offer discounts and promotional deals. All these offers can go viral because they give the target audience something it wants.

3. Make It Easy

Give your audience the ability to share with little effort.

Before the widespread use of social media, viral marketing spread through word of mouth or through e-mail forwarding. This required more action by the audience and made viral marketing slower to spread. Today, tools like Share This and Add This make sharing easier than ever. You can easily add sharing to your site, allowing visitors to share the campaign via whatever social media medium they want, whether Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or others.

However, for people to share, they need to know you’re out there—and don’t expect them to hunt for something that you want to see go viral. Make your content easily discoverable by posting it to sites where your audience plays on-line.

4. Make it Interactive

Don’t just hope they’ll send it on—make audience interactivity critical to the campaign. Think of your audience members as fans and friends, and let them join the fun.

Mountain Dew created three different campaigns that made consumers key players:

  1. With the Dewmocracy campaign, consumers voted on the next Mountain Dew flavor. (They chose to give the world the Mountain Dew Voltage, a raspberry citrus–flavored soda.)
  2. Dewmocracy 2 asked drinkers to create new flavors, colors, names, designs, and even advertising for a new soda offering. After narrowing it down to three options, consumers voted in Mountain Dew Whiteout. Dewmocracy 2 brought Mountain Dew’s Facebook page 800,000 additional fans during the campaign. (Read more about the Dewmocracy campaign here.)
  3. Mountain Dew’s Green Label Art Contest invited artists to submit bottle designs, which other participants voted on. Voted-in artwork was put into limited production and distribution. Mountain Dew reported an increase in sales as a result.

Other companies have executed similar user-driven campaigns for products, such as Flip Camera’s Do You Flip campaign, The Pepsi Refresh Project, and the “Paranormal Activity” Demand It campaign.

Companies that sell to other businesses can get in on this trick, too. VeriSign, one the leading Internet infrastructure services providers, launched a tremendously successful viral campaign focused on its SSL business line. The “Cart Whisperer” series of videos and microsite’s objective were to educate Internet retailers on how to prevent shopping cart abandonment. The campaign resulted in over 5 million YouTube views and over 120,000 microsite visitors.

Other companies have also had success with viral business-to-business marketing, including Cisco’s Business Man Has a Meltdown for the Unified Mobile Communicator product, and IBM’s Art of the Sale for the mainframe line of business.

Even though there’s no failsafe way to make marketing campaigns go viral, these best practices will help. And assistance with the first item our tips list—planning—is available. Give us a call.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/

Posted: Nov 16, 2011
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
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