How To Create A Sure-Fire Viral Marketing Campaign

I'm guessing that if you're reading this article then you, or at least someone you know, dumped a bucket of cold ice water on their head in the name of charity. The question is why did you--or they--do it? The answer to this question may be the key to creating a successful viral campaign for yourself.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is old news by now, but it's lodged in everyone's memories as one of the most successful viral campaigns in the past several years. The lessons for its success was not lost on digital marketing experts as they researched its massive appeal, piece by piece.

A little backstory about the Ice Bucket Challenge; it actually didn't start off as an ALS challenge at all. It began as a fun joke between a small group of friends in Sarasota, FL to encourage each other to donate to charity. It wasn't until Chris Kennedy selected ALS as his charity, that the ball really started rolling. Kennedy's ice bucket video was posted to Facebook and friends from different parts of the country quickly took notice. As the "joke" began to gain momentum, it grabbed the attention of certain influencers who in turn spread the message across Facebook even further. Voila! A viral sensation was born! The influencer's participation created a momentum that didn't slow down for weeks. In the end, ALS Association netted more than $15 million from donors!

So what does this mean for your small business and why isn't your campaign going viral?! Let's start with an aspect that was just previously mentioned, influencers

1. Use Influencers aka Market Mavens

They are the most reliant and efficient method for spreading your content around the Internet. Even big companies like Coca-Cola (BeyoncĂ©) and H&M (David Beckham) use influencers. It's important to get someone with clout to stand behind your brand. Most companies can't afford a BeyoncĂ© or a Beckham, but certainly can afford emailing a blogger or industry critic to ask them for some assistance. Be sure to offer influencers something that they can use, like a link to their website, free products, or referrals. You'll be surprised at how open they will be to help you spread your message.

What differentiates a viral campaign from a normal campaign is the growth rate and social media applications used to transmit those messages. Simply using social media apps is not enough for a campaign to go viral. There needs to be messengers to carry and move the campaign from place to place. 

Are you utilizing influencers? If not, you definitely need to start building some of these relationships asap!

2. Force a Conversation

An integral aspect of viral marketing is making the content interesting and memorable. There are a few tactics one can use to generate such exciting content. For example, true stories about real people, rumors, short lists about fun topics, sex, and elements of surprise combined with other positive emotions will certainly grab an audience's attention. Once this is achieved, the message should then be dispersed to smaller groups on the Internet that have a wider reach. It may be difficult for a marketing campaign to go viral unless these smaller groups of people, who have more influence, can reach their followers and persuade them into viewing the campaign.

3. Feeling Lucky?

If viral marketing campaigns were recipes, luck would be the main ingredient. Without luck, your viral campaign will fall as flat as bread without yeast.

4. Be Honest

Like I've mentioned before, honesty goes a long way. Look at a recent example with L.A. based band, Yacht. They released a statement claiming that someone stole a sex tape they had made. Well, as it turns out, there was no sex tape and it was a huge PR stunt to drum-up some attention for their soon-to-be released music video. The campaign, which they were hoping to become viral backfired and now they are the despised across the Internet. So be honest and most importantly, be you!

5. Less Professional Looking

Part of a viral campaign's appeal is in its unpolished look. If it's overproduced then there is a high chance that it could be a flop. Create something unique that tells a story. If you're a small business, it's unlikely that you can afford a production crew, writers and producers, so trust your gut and make something you find funny, sad, or shocking. Just make sure that it's original and shareable for social media consumption.

6. More Edgy

This is the difficult part. How do you be edgy without crossing any inappropriate lines? This backfired tremendously with Kurl-On Mattresses' campaign which depicted Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, being shot by the Taliban, falling onto a mattress, and bouncing back up to receive a humanitarian award. I'm sure the company that created it, Ogilvy India, was trying to create something inspirational, but it was a total, miserable failure. You have to be memorable without being offensive. It can be a difficult task, but if successful, your campaign will ultimately be more shareable.

Poo-Pourri is a good example of how to leverage off-color humor with creative marketing techniques. The bathroom spray deodorizer company created a viral hit with their "Girls Don't Poop" video. After gaining attention from news hubs like Huffington Post and Jezebel, the company's Facebook fan base grew by 354%!

Hopefully, you can leverage some of these tricks for your own viral campaign. Let us know how it works out for you!

-Chris Parks