Viral Marketing: How to Do It Properly in This Noisy Online World

Achieving success with content marketing in 2020 is not going to be easy. Everywhere you look, you have competitors: blogs here, companies and services there. Ads pull your potential customers’ attention every which way all the time – so how do you find and reach your audience amongst the noise?

And, more importantly, how do you make your content go the coveted phrase “viral?”

The truth of viral marketing is that it only works if your customers want to share it with their friends/followers, and so on. In this way, your marketing content spreads like a “virus.” If every person who sees it reposts it, you’ll soon have an exponential flood of attention on your product, website, or service.

This is different than other types of marketing, such as paying an influencer to promote your company or renting out a billboard. You’re relying on your actual ad or content to supply enough value by itself to warrant a reshare by those who see it. To do this properly, you want your campaign to be funny, inspiring, or helpful: anything that will (by itself!) be valuable to your audience.


A prime example of this is the #AerieReal campaign launched recently, featuring models of great diversity including various skin conditions, use of wheelchair, colostomy bags, down syndrome, etc… This campaign got a massive number of reposts and shares because people valued the campaign’s very mission – recognizing the beauty of those who are not the “model” norm. In a way, sharers felt proud of this campaign, and proud that they were supporting, it, leading them to reshare, encourage their friends to reshare, and so on. And, thus, Aerie had a viral campaign on its hands that made business boom.

Another great example of viral marketing includes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – remember that? The foundation raising money to fight ALS came up with an easy, entertaining gimmick – having people dump freezing cold water on their heads and post it to social media – to attract attention. After all, who doesn’t want to see a friend or coworker be doused in freezing water for a good laugh? What’s more, people had to nominate three of their friends to keep the challenge growing (again, exponentially,) and soon enough, everyone from celebrities to business professionals were doing it. Not only was it a fun and silly activity for people to try, but again, they felt as if they were doing something good by participating – which they were: spreading ALS awareness! 

How to Do It

So, how do you do online content marketing right?

  1. Make it worth sharing. You can have the noblest cause of all, but if your campaign is not funny, inspiring, or helpful, it is unlikely to get shares. Make sure your campaign has something of quality in it worth sharing (i.e. an underrepresented group getting the spotlight or the opportunity to see your friend drench themselves in cold water) to incentivize people to share it.
  2. Make sure people know you want them to share it. A huge portion of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’s success came from the part of the challenge that requires you to nominate others. Other examples of this in marketing include inviting users to tag their friends in the comments or repost on social media.
  3. Make it easy to share. There is a reason why viral content marketing in 2020 happens online: it’s easy! Let’s face it: Even if you personally gave each of your friends two hundred and fifty flyers to hand out to all their friends, it would be much harder and much more time consuming than sharing it with their network of two hundred and fifty online friends with the click of one button.

Don’t Go Unnoticed

Your campaign can have all these qualities, and yet still flop if you don’t invest in it in any other way. Viral campaigns don’t start without promotion. Promote the heck out of the ads you want to see go viral. People are much more likely to share it if they have seen it before, after all! For this reason, viral content marketing in 2020 is not as simple as sending it to one person and watching it take off. Not everyone is going to share it. The trick is making sure the people that will share it, see it in the first place.

Viral marketing is competitive, but not impossible, as long as the right approach is taken. This online world is noisy – posts get lost, go unnoticed, or sit without engagement. Viral marketing strategy embodies the goal of overcoming these issues and dominating the market through an excellent reach, whether for an hour, a day, a week, or a month.

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