What Is Viral Marketing? Viral Marketing Ideas to Flood Your Site With Traffic

Viral marketing is a specific marketing strategy which relies on individuals to spread a message as opposed to relying on conventional and traditional marketing methods to do so. The message is the virus in this case and it’s spread quickly amongst the “hosts” who pass it along to other people, most typically in this day and age via the internet.What Is Viral Marketing

What Is Viral Marketing

Through viral marketing, your message takes on a life of its own and the term viral implies that that message is being passed on/shared by a large number of people. With the advent of social media and social networking, viral marketing is a staple of the internet these days as it’s quite common for a video, image, or story (all types of messages) to be quickly shared amongst a large number of people and percentage of the internet population.

Why should you care about viral marketing? If you haven’t gathered by now, viral marketing can be a HUGE source of traffic for your website if nothing else if the message is kept on your website or at least links to your website. Once your message goes viral, your job is essentially done as instead of having to go through the painstaking job of building your own links and traffic to your message, you have thousands if not millions of people doing this for you.

Now the obvious question is how do we create a viral marketing campaign?

Viral Marketing Ideas

The most obvious form of viral marketing ideas or examples simply involves creating great content. “Great” is too abstract and subjective; you need to create content which is unique, something you can’t find somewhere else, something which is hilarious to a lot of people, something which is shocking to a lot of people, something which is controversial, and something which is easy to get into. Basically along the same lines as link bait examples.

Keep in mind that the attention span for the average internet user is at an all time low in this Twitter age we live in, so your message should be as succinct as possible as no one wants to share and take responsibility for something which doesn’t have a chance of being shared easily (it makes sense if you think about it).

Viral Marketing Examples

Let’s consider a few successful viral marketing examples and campaigns from recent history.

Videos – Videos go viral more than any other form of media because they’re so easy to share and let’s face it, everybody loves a funny or whacky video. YouTube is a breeding ground for viral marketing sensations. Just look at The Lonely Island’s YouTube channel. They’re approaching 1 billion views with well over 1 million subscribers and yet they only have 78 videos on their channel. It’s gotten to the point where every time in which they release a new video, it goes viral and takes the web by storm.

Of course they had to start somewhere, and their breakout first video “Jizz in My Pants” garnered them instant fame and now well over 100 million views on its own as more and more people began to share this amongst their friends because of how ridiculous, hilarious, and revolutionary it was:

Pictures – Photos get retweeted like nobody’s business. This sarcastic photo of the “devastation” from the relatively calm DC earthquake from a few weeks ago was being shared and retweeted thousands of times over within the first hour after the quake (spending part of my time in the DC area, I have to admit this was pretty good).

In the same vein, viral marketing and the internet played a huge role in getting Obama elected. Everyone was showing their support for him because they either believed in his campaign of change or they just thought it was the hip thing to do. In getting back to images, remember when those red, white, and blue Shepard Fairey designed Obama posters were cropping up EVERYWHERE on AND offline? Many of them with just one word inscribed at the bottom: “Hope”. The most simple message delivered in a unique and cool way which everyone could relate to; no wonder it was so effective.

Games/Scripts – People love simple games for killing time in or out of the office. The “Elf Yourself” campaign from OfficeMax is a prime viral marketing example because it was based on a simple script where people could upload pictures of their faces and they would get put on elf bodies and dance in a little video which was made for sharing. Lots of people uploaded their videos which received thousands of views individually. Whenever anyone saw one of these videos for the first time they of course wanted to know how they could do it themselves and there you go: more traffic for OfficeMax.

Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken” was another example of this from years ago where the user could make the chicken do different things by entering commands. It was pretty weird but fun at the same time seeing the chicken in question doing simple commands which you gave it in his living room.

Viral Marketing Vs. Viral

I want to make one final distinction which you need to keep in mind between something which can be considered viral marketing and something which can just be considered viral. Not everything which goes viral is an example of viral marketing.

There are lots of YouTube videos with well over 1 million views from everyday people which went viral, but without the marketing aspect then there isn’t much of a benefit to that person beyond a little internet notoriety (yay).

It’s up to you to both come up with a message worthy of going viral but to also make sure that that message has a purpose which benefits you in some way. For a webmaster this should be to generate traffic back to his or her monetized website, get sign ups for their email list, or generate some social proof at the very least.

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