Marketing
Viral Marketing

What is Viral Marketing?: Definition of viral marketing and its importance in today's digital world

January 19, 2023
7
min read
By
Uttam Gupta
Marketer
,
GrowthSchool
Reviewed by
Sindhu Biswal
Growth Head
,
Betterhalf
Contents

Businesses rely on marketing to reach their target customers, and viral marketing is one of the most effective ways to do this. Viral marketing is a term that has become increasingly popular in the digital age.

A single viral piece of content can put even a mom-and-pop shop on the global trade map.

For example, a video by Dove, "Dove Real Beauty Sketches," reached more than 114 million viewers and became the most-watched video in ad history at the time!

Dove YouTube Channel

But what exactly is viral marketing, and why is it important?

In this article, we'll explain viral marketing and its importance in today's digital world. We'll explore how it works and discuss some of the key factors that can contribute to the success of a viral marketing campaign.

What Does "Viral" Mean?

The term "viral" is used to describe something that is shared rapidly and widely across the internet, much like how a virus spreads quickly from person to person.

In marketing, viral content refers to anything that catches on quickly and is shared exponentially over time. This can be anything from an inspirational story or funny video to a helpful tutorial or product review.

What is Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing is a form of advertising that utilizes network effects (word of mouth, social media, etc.) to spread a message on an exponential level, resulting in large-scale reach with minimal effort.

The goal of any viral marketing campaign is to create content that is so appealing and exciting it spreads from person to person on its own.

This concept is based on the idea that if you give someone something of value, they will be more likely to pass it on. This could be a free trial, discount code, or even just an entertaining video.

The key to success lies in creating content and properly targeting and promoting it to the right audience.

Why Is Viral Marketing Important?

In today's digital age, consumers are bombarded with marketing messages from every direction, and it can be difficult for businesses to cut through the noise and get noticed.

Viral marketing leverages the power of social media and word-of-mouth to spread brand awareness and drive sales. When a piece of content goes viral, it can reach a massive audience in a short period of time, which can be incredibly valuable for businesses looking to promote their products or services.

In addition to its reach, viral marketing is also important because it is often more cost-effective than traditional forms of advertising. While it can be challenging to create content that goes viral, the payoff can be significant, with a potentially huge return on investment.

Overall, viral marketing is a powerful tool for businesses looking to reach a large audience, drive brand awareness, and generate sales. So, it is very important for businesses to consider incorporating viral marketing strategies into their overall marketing plan.

The Psychology Behind Viral Marketing

Why does something go viral?

It's a combination of psychological and sociological factors. On the psychological level, people tend to share things that make them look good or that align with their values.

On the sociological level, people want to be part of something bigger than themselves and want to be in on the latest trends. They want to appear as if they are "in the know" or up to date on the latest developments.

At the heart of any successful viral marketing campaign is an understanding of the human psyche.

People are more likely to share content if it makes them look good, so creating something that resonates with viewers' values and emotions can be incredibly powerful. Part of this involves creating a narrative or story around your product or brand that people can identify with.

So, what kind of emotions should you try to evoke in your audience to go viral?

Broadly, ten emotions are known to increase the shareability of content, product, or service:

  1. Amusement - make your audience laugh
  2. Interest - make them curious
  3. Surprise - catch them off guard
  4. Happiness - make them feel good
  5. Delight - make them feel special
  6. Pleasure - give them something of value
  7. Joy - give them an opportunity to share their joy
  8. Hope - give them a brighter outlook
  9. Affection - invoke a sense of warmth
  10. Excitement - create anticipation for something new

If executed well, evoking these emotions through various types of viral marketing strategies will go a long way in creating strong network effects.

What Are Network Effects?

Tapan Desai

Network effects refer to the phenomenon in which a product or service becomes more valuable as more people use it. This can occur in viral marketing when a piece of content or a product becomes more popular as it is shared and consumed by more people.

One example of network effects in viral marketing is the spread of a viral video on social media. As more and more people watch and share the video, it becomes more popular, which in turn leads to even more people viewing and sharing it. This creates a virtuous cycle that can lead to significant growth in a short period of time.

Another example of network effects in viral marketing is the adoption of a new social media platform. As more people join and use the platform, it becomes more valuable for businesses and marketers to be active on it, which leads to even more people joining.

Network effects are broadly two types:

  1. Direct network effects
  2. Indirect network effects

Direct Network Effects

Direct network effects occur when the value of a product or service increases for an individual user as more people use it. This can be a powerful force in driving the adoption and growth of a product or service.

One example of direct network effects is the adoption of a social media platform. As more of an individual's friends and connections join the platform, it becomes a more useful tool for communication and connection, which increases its value for the individual user.

Another example is the adoption of a messaging app. As more people join and use the app, it becomes a more useful tool for communication and coordination, which increases its value for individual users.

Direct network effects can also occur in physical products, such as consumer electronics. For example, the value of a mobile phone increases for an individual user as more people have mobile phones because it becomes a more useful communication tool.

Indirect Network Effects

Indirect network effects occur when the value of a product or service increases for an individual user as more people use complementary products or services. This can create a ripple effect that drives the adoption of the original product or service.

One example of indirect network effects is the adoption of a video game console. As more people purchase and use the console, it becomes more attractive for game developers to create games for it, which in turn increases the value of the console for individual users.

Another example is the adoption of a software application. As more people use the application, it becomes more useful for businesses and individuals, which in turn attracts more developers to create complementary products or services, such as plugins or integrations. This increases the value of the original application for individual users.

Indirect network effects can also occur in physical products, such as consumer electronics. For example, the value of a digital camera increases for an individual user as more people purchase and use complementary products such as memory cards and photo printers.

How To Improve Network Effects In Viral Marketing?

There are a few key viral marketing strategies that businesses can use to improve network effects in viral marketing:

  1. Focus on creating high-quality, shareable content: The success of a viral marketing campaign often depends on the quality and appeal of the content. By creating content that is valuable, informative, or entertaining, businesses can increase the likelihood that it will be shared and spread.
  2. Encourage sharing and social media engagement: By making it easy for users to share content and interact with your brand on social media, businesses can increase the reach of their marketing efforts and drive word-of-mouth advertising.
  3. Foster a sense of community: By building a sense of community around your brand and encouraging customer engagement, businesses can create a loyal customer base that is more likely to share and promote your products or services.
  4. Foster partnerships and collaborations: By partnering with complementary brands or influencers, businesses can tap into new networks and increase the reach of their marketing efforts.

Pros and Cons of Viral Marketing

Benefits of Viral Marketing

  1. Low cost: One of the major benefits of viral marketing is that it can be relatively low cost compared to traditional forms of advertising. While it can be challenging to create content that goes viral, the payoff can be significant, with a potentially huge return on investment.
  2. High reach: Another major benefit of viral marketing is its potential for high reach. When a piece of content goes viral, it can be shared and spread rapidly, reaching a massive audience in a short period of time.
  3. Positive brand associations: When content goes viral, it can be associated with positive emotions and experiences, which can help to build positive associations with the brand.

Drawbacks of Viral Marketing

  1. Lack of control: One major challenge of viral marketing is the lack of control that businesses have over the spread of their content. Once a piece of content is released, it is out of the business's control and may be shared or modified in ways that the business did not anticipate.
  2. Risk of negative association: Another potential risk of viral marketing is the possibility of negative associations with the brand. If a piece of content is perceived as controversial or offensive, it could reflect poorly on the brand.
  3. The difficulty of predicting success: It can be difficult to predict which pieces of content will go viral and which will not. This can make it challenging for businesses to invest time and resources into viral marketing efforts.

Conclusion

Viral marketing can be a powerful tool for businesses to increase brand recognition, reach new audiences, and drive sales. However, it is important for businesses to understand the risks of viral marketing and develop strategies to reduce the potential for negative outcomes.

By focusing on creating high-quality content that appeals to their target audience and encouraging customer engagement, businesses can create content that is more likely to be shared and go viral. Additionally, businesses should foster partnerships and collaborations with complementary brands in order to increase their marketing reach.

With the right viral marketing strategies, businesses can increase the effectiveness of their viral marketing campaigns and reap the rewards that come with them.

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