17 Ways to Succeed with Viral Content Marketing

Every marketer’s dream is to create a piece of viral content. Old Spice, Smart Water, and BlendTec are just a few examples of companies with campaigns that have received million of shares, and some serious brand advocates.

While there’s no reliable formula for virality, there are some tried-and-true tactics to increase the appeal of your next campaign.

Inspired by the awesome infographic designed by Voltier Digital (see scrollable image below), we’ve curated 17 fresh ideas
to help you generate more exposure than ever before.

(click to zoom in and watch the image in full resolution)

Viral content marketing infographic

Image source: Voltier Digital/ProBlogger

1. Inspire the Right Emotions

People share content that makes them feel a certain way. A recent study by Frac.tl marketing found that certain emotions lend themselves to viral sharing more often than others:

Viral content emotions

Image source: Frac.tl/SEOmoz

Amuse, intrigue, or excite your audience if you’ve got dreams of viral content marketing, but don’t make them feel frustrated or guilty.

2. Take a Stand

Politics, religion, and hard stances can be a pretty risky path to take in marketing, but sometimes the risk pays off in some seriously viral content marketing. Nearly a year ago, Oreo cookies decided to announce their support for gay rights with branded visual content:

Viral content oreo pride

Image source: Creative Criminals

While the image created a stir, the maneuver generated a great deal of positive press for the brand, and a year later, we’re still talking about the campaign.

3. Use Rising Memes

When HubSpot released a video of their staff covering Psy’s Gangnam style last September, the movie quickly went viral. If they’d waited until December for the cover, it would have gotten a lot less traction. Use your messages and staff to make viral content marketing your own, but ensure you’re quick to release your cover.

4. Give Permission to Share

Add a disclosure statement at the bottom of your latest infographic, video, meme, or image that gives other bloggers explicit permission to share. Entrepreneur.com recommends giving permission to share in its entirety, with full credit. Getting reprinted on a major blog can ensure you’re able to capture a whole new audience’s enthusiasm.

Viral content permission

5. Leverage Digital Influencers

It only takes one Tweet from the Justin Biebers or Jeff Bullases of the world to have hundreds of thousands of shares in a moment’s time. Building relationships with digital influencers should be an integral part of any viral content marketing strategy.

6. Distribute on the Right Channels

Social distribution and bookmarking is critical to get your content in front of avid internet users. SingleGrain recommends Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, YouTube and Del.icio.us as top sites for achieving a viral  effect of your content marketing.

7. Be More Shocking

Great content marketers infuse their blog titles and video names with some shock value. Viral marketers are so incredibly surprising that their content demands clicks, like the recent Smartwater YouTube ad titled “Jennifer Aniston Sex Tape.

8. Don’t Spend More

High-quality content is critical, but no amount of money spent on distribution or promotion can make a mediocre piece of content. The Blair Witch Project was created on the shockingly low budget of $20,000, but achieved serious hype through a pretty weird website to promote the film.

9. Be Relevant

Back in 2011, an Australian insurance agency offered US President Obama a pro bono policy against being eaten by a Crocodile. Weird, but effective – there are over 1.23 million Google results for the move nearly two years later. This type of viral content marketing is exactly what Gary Vaynerchuk means when he states that “context is god.”

10. Reward Shares

The most direct approach might be the right one. Offering an incentive for reaching viral social media shares could be effective, such as donating money to a charity of your Facebook fan’s choice.

11. Give Your Audience Control

Viral content burger king

People don’t like being force-fed branded messages, which is why interactive marketing and gamification are an effective tactic for virality. Way back in 2004, Burger King broke ground by allowing their audience to type commands to a man in a chicken suit, such as “moon walk,” which he’d then follow in real time.

12. Give Less Information

People love being cast as detectives. Prior to the release of HBO’s hit series True Blood, a number of prominent bloggers were mailed vials of a mysterious red substance. It was spooky, but it definitely excited digital influencers enough to get them talking.

13. Take a Calculated Risk

Giving away as much product as you can afford for free or cheap can help you gain a social media following that lasts much longer than your viral content marketing. Virgin Airlines offered 1000 tickets at $9 several years ago – expensive, but they gained over 16k Twitter followers from the experiment.

14. Pivot and Try Again

Even companies known for their consistently viral content marketing stumble every once in a while. Not too long before their Real Beauty Sketches became the most talked-about advertising of 2013, Dove got some negative press for an airbrushed print ad.

15. Use Niche Celebrities

People share relevant content. While you can’t replace the worldwide name recognition of Kim Kardashian or Jennifer Lawrence, it may be a more effective tactic to pick a celebrity to weave into your marketing campaign that specifically appeals to your buyer personas.

16. Be Faster than Usain Bolt

The people behind viral content marketing never take a day off, even if it’s the biggest sporting event of the year. Oreo’s brilliant marketing team generated the following image in mere minutes during the infamous power outage at the 2013 Superbowl:

Viral content oreo twitter

Image source: Oreo

17. Keep Doing What Works

If you’ve been lucky enough to launch a viral content marketing campaign, don’t feel you need to deviate what works. Old Spice’s Isaiah Mustafa campaign undoubtedly gained more clout by playing off the same successful concept, as opposed to trying new ideas.

How have you produced and launched a viral content marketing campaign?