Viral Marketing Initiatives

Viral marketing is very beneficial to social media because of how quickly information can spread throughout the Internet, not to mention it is an extremely cost-efficient means of promotion. To accomplish marketing goals marketers utilize videos, blogs, contests, and other mechanisms. Each method uses themes such as humor, interactivity, what’s relevant/trending, easiness of sharing, and social commenting.

There are certain efforts that make a marketing initiative go viral. Below are what I deem are the top five characteristics of a viral campaign.

  1. Humor– Viral marketing must elicit a response and what is better than laughter? Some push boundaries and make the humor controversial and that just fuels the viral fire even more. Consumers are compelled to  share humorous content whether they found it funny or not because they want others to see it and express what they thought of it. Will Ferrell’s “The Landlord” is a good example of a successful humorous and controversial viral marketing effort.Check it out for yourself:
  2. Relevancy– If a marketing initiative does not relate its content to the latest news, trends, or “what’s hot” then there is nothing for the consumer to connect to.
  3. Sharable Content– Make sharing easy. It is as simple as that. This is also known as social media optimization (SMO). Make it easy for consumers to share through tools such as widgets, badges, RSS feeds, and social commenting. People will take the two seconds to click the share to Facebook or Twitter icon, but they might not take the extra time to go to their social media site and copy and paste your link. Widgets allow people to grab content and share it across their social networks. For example Yahoo! blogs all have widgets that encourage sharing on Facebook, Twitter, email, LinkedIn, and Google+. simplesocial2
  4. Social Commenting– This effort can be a significant traffic driver. Not only will social commenting allow people to “like” a campaigns content this action also appears on the individuals Facebook. If the consumer decides to share the “like” on their social network, then a link back to the content is created and they can add their own comment to the post as well.
  5. RSS Feeds– Allowing individuals to subscribe to content is yet another way help make a marketing initiative go viral. RSS feeds keep the consumer up-to-date either through email or RSS news feeds.

Success Stories:

The Ford Fiesta Campaign is one example of viral marketing through social media. The company selected 100 socially vibrant individuals and then provided them with the European version of the Ford Fiesta 18 months prior to it being manufactured and released in the US. These socially media aware fanatics were then encouraged to share their experiences with the Ford Fiesta over the next six months on their Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube channels. The effort generated 11,000,000 social media impressions; 11,000 videos uploaded, 13,000 photos posted and 50,000 “hand raisers” or “leads” who want more information; 97% did not currently own a Ford. Ford utilized the video mechanism and the themes of sharing, interactivity, relevancy, and social commenting. Check out 5 other viral marketing campaigns here.


This viral marketing campaign supported both business and marketing efforts. It helped increase brand awareness, improve sales, and expand the company’s webpage and social media platforms reach. Ford Fiesta’s viral social media campaign also assisted in boosting traffic to each social site, increasing fan interaction, and improving the company’s overall social media following.

Another great viral marketing example that is a bit older (2009) is Samsung’s clip of LED-illuminated sheep YouTube video. The viral clip was sheep running around the Welsh countryside creating images with the brand’s LED lights. The video has attracted over 18 million views on YouTube and continues to be the topic of discussion on blogs across the web. The “is it real or not” characteristic proves once again to be YouTube gold.

What do you think makes a marketing initiative go viral? Have a favorite viral video or campaign? Share it and your thoughts below!


3 responses to “Viral Marketing Initiatives

  1. Great blog post… Extreme Sheep LED I think this is a very interesting video on the (2009) is Samsung’s clip of LED-illuminated sheep YouTube video. It is almost an abstract video where it can be true that the sheep are the lights behind the artwork or it can be an illusion. Either way it shows the details of what LED Samsung can caption on their video camera. YouTube is a great source of free advertising and can make a video go viral if it captures an audience. The interesting appeal of a video can be also seen by many different audiences as well where most ads online or TV are geared towards a specific audience. Viral videos can also come back later in time where they are resurfaced by new interested people that have or haven’t seen them prior in their successful acknowledgements and peak stage.

    • Thanks Kelly! The video definitely caught my attention and you don’t realize its for Samsung’s LED lights until the end, which is how a viral video is supposed to be. Not knowing the brand is promoting their lights lets the consumer come to their own conclusions. I agree that viral videos can definitely have a second wind. For every person that saw the clip at its peak there is a person that just happened to miss it. I would actually like to see a follow up video of the sheep showing if it is completely real or fake.

  2. I agree with you in wanting to see if it was real or not, especially since its been so long but I think that is the fun in it is the mystery. Only the people involved will really know. Even to this day, people like myself who have never seen it will have Samsung put in front of them just for curiosoity’s sake and now when I need say, a light, Samsung will come to my mind first just because of their silly video. Great example!

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