Viral Marketing for Small Businesses

In today’s age of ubiquitous online presence and constant social engagement, businesses can incorporate viral marketing concepts in order to grow. This may seem fairly easy to do for large brands with near-unlimited marketing budgets, but smaller businesses can also use the reach of their users to amplify their presence and generate revenue.

What is Viral Marketing?

We have all heard the term “It just went viral,” but what exactly does that mean? Viral marketing is creating or tapping into commonly used buzzwords and leveraging mainstream events that are memorable to generate exposure. 

Your message “rides the wave” of these trending words and topics, utilizing social media, word of mouth and person-to-person sharing channels to spread. This is a way to let your audience and their networks perform your marketing for you. Here are 5 tactics you can use starting right now to leverage viral marketing to your advantage.

1. Identify your audience

To start, identify who you want the message to reach. For small business owners, this is typically consumers who may be interested in your product or service. However, to reach them you have to know who they are and what online channels they frequent. In particular, the venue of the promotion will affect the success of your campaign.

2. Engage at an emotional level

We are constantly bombarded with a vast amount of content. In most cases, this content is very short-lived, and does not capture our attention for long. In order to get your audience to pay attention to your message, you should wrap it in an attention-grabbing package. Often times, the best attention-grabbers are those that appeal to consumers on an emotional level. When you create something that makes your audience react – smile or laugh, remember a memory, think of someone they love, or even elicit a negative reaction – the impact will be much greater than simply pushing a marketing message.

3. Throw in an unexpected twist

Most successful viral marketing campaigns surprise their audiences with something unpredictable. Often it’s unrelated to the product, service, or even company behind the campaign itself. By incorporating an unexpected twist you will make your campaign memorable. A great example is the “Ice bucket challenge” by the ALS Association that raised over $120 million and pulled in famous names like Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos.

4. Encourage users to share

You can’t go viral without the network effect of your audience and their connections. Facilitate the viral marketing effort by making it easy for your audience to spread. Include sharing links on social channels and allow your audience to embed your content into their online properties to make your campaign more effective. This will be influenced by the channels you choose to display your campaign content across – e.g. not only your own website but also Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

5. Make sure there is a hook

Most successful viral marketing campaigns encourage sharing by offering something valuable or free as a hook. When tied together, user sharing and a free offer are a powerful duo that not only enables your audience to spread your message, but also attracts them to your product or service.

There is no guaranteed formula that will ensure your marketing content will “go viral.” But by incorporating the tactics outlined in this article your chances of success will increase greatly, and helping your business generate new customers and revenue.