Going (and staying) Viral

Posted on August 30, 2011 by


Perusing Twitter last month, I visited the page of one of my favorite musicians, St. Vincent (@st_vincent), and was delighted to find that a song from her new album had been “unlocked.” As fans tweeted #strangemercy (the name of the upcoming album), a short teaser videos and the new song slowly became available on the website www.strangemercy.com. Though intrigued, I remembered a very similar campaign at the end of May, in which users tweeted the hashtag #TheFireRises to unlock a picture of the newest Batman villain. These campaigns can be considered ‘viral,’ as the point is to attract user involvement and promote content sharing.

Although viral advertising was visible before the social media boom, the concept now seems like a no-brainer. Viral marketing refers to a campaign that users spread themselves, willingly – whether it’s posting a funny commercial on your friend’s Facebook wall, tweeting a certain hashtag to unlock music or otherwise spreading brand awareness. Because messages can spread with the click of a button, incentivizing this process can be an incredibly effective way to draw eyeballs to your campaign. So effective, in fact, that it’s challenging the model of traditional marketing.

Successful viral campaigns essentially turn the noise of advertising into real, worthwhile entertainment and intrigue. After all, if the content isn’t worth sharing, why ‘infect’ your friends with it? With the current prevalence of social media marketing, though, the idea of ‘viral marketing’ no longer seems unique or extreme. Companies are realizing that viral campaigns can be significantly less expensive and more successful than buying network time slots. ‘Going Viral’ seems more and more like an outdated buzzword; because really, it’s now the norm we try to achieve.

Questions for this week’s chat:

1)   What does ‘viral’ content look like? What are some successful examples you have come across, and why do they work?

2)   Does viral marketing depend on social media? Why or why not?

3)   How do you reach people with high social networking potential? Does this change your idea of “targeted” consumers?

4)   How do you incentivize consumers to spread your message?

5)   Is viral marketing taking the place of more traditional marketing practices?

Thanks for reading, I’m very much looking forward to hearing what you all have to say. If you haven’t already, please join the conversation!

– Matthew Freedman (@MattyFreeds)

Posted in: Marketing