Make Viral Marketing Work for You

What is Viral Marketing? 

While growing up with social media, you no doubt have seen or heard about something “going viral,” whether it’s a Tweet, a TikTok video, a meme, a hashtag, or an idea. You’ve probably helped something go viral, too, by sharing it across all your social media platforms. Sometimes going viral can be a negative situation: an embarrassing photo, a leaked movie spoiler, or someone’s awful Tweet.  

However, at its foundation, going viral simply means a lot of people have caught on to the idea and want to pass it on. When it comes to your small business, young entrepreneurs can use viral marketing to create a brand and boost sales. Especially if you are more creative than financially minded, creating a viral campaign for your enterprise might be the best way to bring eyeballs to your website.  

Your business can be on everyone’s lips and fingertips with a clever and well-placed marketing campaign. An item goes viral when it spreads rapidly all over the world: like a virus. Basically, you are putting your marketing in the hands of millions (hopefully!) of strangers, counting on them to understand what you are trying to say so that they help pass your message along. This can be scary; once you put it out there, you have no control over who sees your message, where it goes, and how it’s interpreted. To minimize the chances that your viral marketing will backfire, and to make your message as viral-friendly as possible, read on and consider your strategy. 

How Viral Marketing Works 

On the surface, viral marketing seems simple: you Tweet something, post a video on TikTok, or stream yourself on YouTube. Then others retweet, share, or link to what you did. And then those people pass it on, and so forth until you have thousands of retweets or views.  

This strategy is fine for everyday people who are just trying to connect with friends or win a popularity contest. 

For young entrepreneurs such as yourself, however, this isn’t enough. As you know, marketing is an essential part of running your business; therefore, viral marketing must be a tool you use with careful consideration. Just because it’s free (or nearly free) and easy doesn’t mean it can’t also be effective. 

Three things to keep in mind when brainstorming your viral marketing campaign: your brand, your audience, and the platform. What works on Instagram won’t necessarily translate well to YouTube, just as a lengthy YouTube video won’t work on TikTok.  

Since you are a smart and hardworking young entrepreneur, you’ve already done your homework with regards to branding your small business. (Right?) When you create something for social media, make sure to stay on brand. You want your words and images to connect to your business so that the audience will also make the connection. McDonald’s doesn’t advertise with pictures of snow-capped mountains, so don’t waste your time using things that have nothing to do with what you are selling. A word association app can help you come up with creative ways to keep the focus on your product. 

Remember, too, your target audience. What appeals to your fellow Gen Zers might be lost on Gen X. Who are your customers? What do they like? Will they get your slang, or would a more nostalgic approach work best? A little psychology goes a long way here; it might be worth testing your Tweet or video on friends, family, even teachers, before sending it out into the world. 

You Can’t Force Viral Marketing 

There are so many vague factors that go into a successful viral marketing campaign. You still need to carefully craft yours, though. To some degree, it’s a numbers game, but you want to be careful not to spam your subscribers and followers: don’t send out the same content over and over again. This also includes timing your content for the most possible eyeballs based on your target audience. High school students won’t have the same active social media metrics as parents of small children.  

Make sure you take a look at current events so that you aren’t being insensitive or tone-deaf. Pay attention to days of the week, holidays, and other times people might be more or less likely to go online. Be smart about your timing, no matter how excited you are to get that super clever Tweet out there. 

Not all of your attempts at viral marketing will work, and that’s fine. There are a number of reasons why this may be, even if your video is unique, creative, hilarious, and posted at the exact right time. There’s no accounting for the collective psychology of all online users, so don’t take it personally and don’t think that you did everything wrong. Revise, revamp, and try again. You never know what will “stick” and go viral. 

Awesome Viral Marketing Campaigns 

Here are some popular success stories in viral marketing, and why they worked. 

*Oreos (2013) 

During the 2013 Super Bowl, the power went out at the New Orleans Superdome for 34 minutes. In an astonishing feat of quick-thinking, Oreo tweeted, “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.”  

Here is an example of viral marketing that took advantage of a situation that affected millions of people at the same time, without being insensitive or tone-deaf. 

Keep an eye on breaking news; you never know when you’ll be able to jump on a situation and make people laugh with your razor-sharp comment that draws attention to your business. 

*Gillette (2020) 

A brand typically targeted at men took on one of the biggest moments in women’s history when they began their “The best men can be” campaign. With that single phrase, the company both drew attention to the #MeToo movement as well as showed men what they can do about it. They weren’t just all talk, either: Gillette committed to donating $1 million each year for three years to non-profit organizations. 

If your business is already attached to a social cause, make sure people know about it. Focus on the emotional impact of what you are doing, and your audience will respond. 

*Nike (1987) 

“Just Do It” has become so popular that it’s still around all these years later. It’s not hard to see why: the phrase is simple, yet it carries so much. “Just Do It” can apply to literally any aspect of life, from athletics to school to chores. How inspiring is that? 

When you inspire people, they remember you. Marketing is more than selling your brand; it’s selling a story, a way of life. If you can inspire your customers to feel better or do better, they are much more likely to want to buy your product. 

If you are a high school student in Florida with a passion for entrepreneurship, click here to find out more about the Kantner Foundation’s college scholarship program.

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