Successful viral marketing campaigns are much different from your traditional marketing campaigns.

This new marketing technique uses social networks to distribute viral marketing messages that will help raise brand awareness.

It was one of the most popular selfies to ever hit the Internet.

The post with that selfie was so popular that one of the most widely used social media platforms crashed, leaving thousands of thousands of users locked out.

The post has generated so many interactions that Twitter had to email the user and notify that her selfie has broken the previous record set by Barack Obama after his re-election. And it was hard to beat that: it’s not every day that a Twitter post generates more than 880,000 retweets and almost 600,000 likes.

However, she did it, anyway.

Of course, we’re talking about the famous selfie shared by Ellen DeGeneres from the Oscars. The one that was packed with celebrities (where else would you see such extraordinary individuals as Bradley Cooper, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Ellen DeGeneres, and many others in the same picture, right?)

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Just look at those numbers: 3.2 million retweets and 2.3 million likes. Without a doubt, this became one of the most popular tweets ever and is still gathering interactions.

This tweet is a dream of any marketer. Millions of interactions gathered within a small period of time made this incredible picture go viral very quickly and beat the existing record set by Barack Obama.

The recipe of the success here is obvious: just take a bunch of beloved people, dress them very nicely, make them smile, and take a picture of them. Who wouldn’t want to do that, right? But what if Ellen DeGeneres doesn’t return your calls? Does this mean that you can’t make your social media posts go viral like that?

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Of course not. I’ve used the example of Ellen DeGeneres’s post just to demonstrate how impactful viral posts can be and what potential gains they can unlock. Yes, you too can create an engaging post that resonates with millions and goes viral within a week.

To make this dream come true, however, you need to know a lot of things that make a social media post – or any online content, for that matter – go viral. In this guide, I’m going to share these things with you to help you understand how to use viral marketing to create something that can become popular quickly.

It may not cause a social media platform to crash, but you’ll get the exposure that you need to achieve your marketing goals. Here we go.

A Bit about Viral Marketing

Before we go to actual tips on making your content viral, let’s talk just a little bit about viral marketing. This is very important since you need to understand the essence of this marketing strategy before actually using it.

You need to ask some questions to build a really successful viral campaign.

Let me ask you a question. What do you think the purpose of viral marketing is?

  • to capture attention fast
  • to spark emotions immediately
  • to make your audience think and feel something.

The correct answer is… Well, all the options are correct because viral marketing campaigns seek to trigger a certain emotion by grabbing the attention of viewers.

Have you noticed that all the goals focus on emotions and perception? The reason for this is that viral marketing is all about creating viral content, so compelling and engaging, that people just help themselves but talk about it and share it with their friends.

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But what content would your audience want to share with their friends?

That’s the right question. Viral marketing requires setting a specific goal with the audience in mind. The topic of the content, distribution channels, the length of the viral video – everything you do should be consumer-driven.

For example, maybe there’s a certain type of content that your audience likes to consume the most. That’s okay if there isn’t because the principles of viral marketing could be applied to a wide range of content types, including videos, podcasts, blog articles, images, infographics, photos, and everything you could fit in a social media post.

Next, we’re going to dig even deeper and see what emotions are the most effective at encouraging people to share content (by the way, that’s how we become research- and customer-oriented).

Fortunately for us, people have been studying this for years. For example, this recent research of 100 million articles revealed the following results.

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Accordingly, content that inspired awe (25 percent of popular articles), laughter (17 percent), and amusement (15 percent) was the most likely to go viral. On the other hand, content that led to negative emotions such as anger (6 percent) and sadness (1 percent) demonstrated the poorest performance.

No surprises here, but this information is incredibly important for us as content creators and marketers.

The next important principle of viral marketing is to make it easy to share content. For example, if you want your audience to help with making your content go viral, then you need to provide them with the tools required for the job.

“Brands do it in a variety of ways,” says Tom Martin, a marketing director at Flatfy. “For example, they upload their content to social media that allows easy sharing in a couple of clicks. To help readers with sharing a blog article, businesses integrate such tools as social media share buttons.”

In fact, Matrix Marketing Group’s own blog also features these buttons because having them in today’s competitive content environment is simply a must.

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Different websites place them in different places, but the purpose is the same: encourage visitors to share content on social media (the below example also comes from this blog. What can you do, we’re all about sharing here).

Others use tools like Click to Tweet, which makes it easy to share certain parts of a text on Twitter. The idea of having a helper to share a part of a text you find interesting was welcomed by internet audiences and businesses, so Click to Tweet was also made in a WordPress plugin.

So, to conclude, viral marketing:

  • Involves creating a content that triggers certain emotions (mostly positive such as amusement, laughter, and awe, of course)
  • Requires businesses to make it easy to share content by sharing them in places often visited by target audiences (social media etc.) or giving them the tools to do it easily by themselves
  • Involves studying target consumers to make sure that they will perceive the content as “worth sharing”

Yes, I know, I promised “A Bit about Viral Marketing,” but it’s been more than a bit. Believe me, this information will be very useful for your marketing effort if you decide to give it a try.

And now, let’s move on to the “how.” Not making promises here, because to make a piece of content go viral, you need to know a lot. Seriously.

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How to Make Your Content Go Viral

We’ve already learned a lot about what increases the chances of content going viral, so let’s summarize this knowledge into actionable, specific tips so you can use them as a roadmap in your digital marketing strategy.

1. Study Your Audience

As I’ve mentioned above, you have to know what makes your audience want to share content in order to achieve maximum results.

For example, a B2B business that provides auditing services shouldn’t post silly pictures on their social media profiles simply because their audience won’t understand them. In addition to that, this may also bring a significant blow to the brand’s reputation because their audience doesn’t expect silly and hilarious content from them.

Clearly, this is something that you need to avoid. Being entertaining and funny is possible for most brands. With proper research and preparation, you can achieve amazing things. Take this viral ad by Volvo as an example.

The Swedish brand is known for producing some of the safest vehicles, and road safety is not something to laugh about. So the audience expects perfection in every possible way, and this is what the video delivers

They did so by creating an amazing ad featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme (by the way, the video has already hit more than 91 million views!) that combines the feeling of safety and security with an element of entertainment.

A perfectly appropriate ad that demonstrates Volvo’s awareness of their target audience’s needs (and the craziest thing is that Van Damme doesn’t even mention the brand in the video!).

Takeaway: Know what your audience appreciates and create content accordingly, but without sacrificing the reputation of your brand or product.

2. A Healthy Dose of Humor is a Must

Remember how we talked about giving people something so compelling they would want to share with their friends right away? That’s where the humor comes in.

Let’s consider an example of a humorous social media post remains focused on brand while delivering a healthy dose of entertainment. BarkBox is an online brand that provides dog products and services.

To grab the attention of their audience in the world where dog posts are everywhere, they’ve made this:

Why it’s good?

  • It features a dog to create an association with the brand
  • It’s genuinely funny
  • It refers to something that many people experience in real life
  • It’s appropriate, so doesn’t damage the reputation of the brand.

If you look at Barkbox’s Instagram feed, you’ll realize that the brand is all about viral marketing (seriously, take a look, the posts are hilarious, and the best news is that it’s all for the sake of research).

Takeaway: use humor carefully to make sure that the content is appropriate and won’t affect your brand’s reputation.

3. Don’t be too Promotional

We’ve already seen two great examples of viral content (good news: you’re going to see some more), but as you’ve noticed, none of them promoted a brand in an explicit manner. This is critical because online audiences don’t like being sold to.

So, remember to make entertainment the top priority the next time you’re working on content you want to go viral. This means no talking about product features, prices, and benefits and a focus on the experience that your brand delivers without being overly promotional.

Takeaway: your audience won’t relate to hard-sell, so encourage virality by making them feel great instead.

4. Be Creative

Only creative content has the potential for going viral. An idea that can be considered boring, uninteresting or an idea that was used by someone before are sure-fire ways to fail. Simple.

For example, let’s consider this. Edeka is a Germany-based grocery chain that needed to boost the awareness of their brand. So they created this hilarious and unbelievably creative video.

Creating video is the definition of new and attention-grabbing because, well, where else have you seen something like that? The ad had more than 20 million views at the beginning of 2019 and still generates some social media buzz and helps raise awareness.

This goes to show that creativity can be your biggest advantage even if you don’t have a big marketing budget and a celebrity to use in your videos.

Takeaway: the idea for your own content should be original and creative in order to work. So gather up your team and do whatever gets your creative juices flowing.

5. Work on the Emotional Appeal

Emotional appeal is the biggest reason why content becomes popular. Your content may appeal to different emotions to achieve the main goal of going viral – awe, happiness, laughter, etc. – but the most important thing to remember is that “the emotional element” is the one that grabs the attention and makes someone stops for a minute and take a look at your content.

Take a look at this ad from Nike. It features a well-known NBA player Kyrie Irving and his dad, playing basketball together. According to the company’s campaign description, Kyrie Irving’s mother passed away when he was just nine, so his father, Frederick, sacrificed his own dream of playing in the NBA to allow his son to do it.

If this doesn’t deliver that emotional appeal, I don’t know what will.

Takeaway: make sure that there’s an emotional catch in your content that grabs the attention of the viewer.

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Final Words about Viral Marketing

As you can see, you don’t have to gather a bunch of Hollywood actors in one photo to get millions of views. Hopefully, this guide helped you to unlock the secret of what makes content go viral and inspired you to create something that your own audience will appreciate.

We’re listening.

Have something to say about viral marketing? Share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or our LinkedIn.

Kate is a passionate writer who likes sharing her thoughts and experience with the readers. Currently, she works as a real estate agent at She likes everything related to traveling and new countries.

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