The (Ir)relevance of Viral Marketing

  • Author

    Klara Gavran

  • Published

    Dec, 07, 2018

  • Reading time

    5 min

There are many examples when viral marketing was successful in raising brand awareness – and more. Surely we all remember the craze that was the #ALSIceBucketChallenge – and it wasn’t for naught. The summer of 2014 was an unexpected, yet welcome surprise for the ALS association. Be honest – have you heard of the ALS before the very cause became viral?

You’d be among the few.

That’s the beauty of virality, though, the awareness and tangibility of results. When you delve deeper into the outcome of the trending hashtag you’ll find out that a gene partly responsible for the ALS was successfully discovered. Truly, not only did people become more aware of the ALS, but they also contributed to this breakthrough by donating money to the cause.

💡 Read Creating a Marketing Strategy that Works: Benefits, Steps, Tools

And the reason this challenge became viral so quickly – the virality was already built in. Once you did the challenge, you had to challenge three other people. They either did the challenge or they had to donate money. And everybody is going to rise up to the challenge, especially if they’re called out on social media.

Media Analytics for Marketers Ebook

And then the best thing that could’ve happened, happened. Gisele Bündchen, Justin Timberlake and Kate Moss were some of the first celebrities that partook in the challenge. From then, it just spread. More and more famous names started joining them and you can imagine the effect that had on the virality of the challenge. Seeing Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey or Beyoncé doing the challenge gave it credibility and importance it may not have enjoyed otherwise.

Over a $100 million raised, 440 million Facebook videos that generated 10 billion views and second biggest topic on Facebook in 2014.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has become a prime example of viral marketing at its finest. It had the three main ingredients relevant to its success – built-in virality, emotional connection and last, but certainly not least, celebrity endorsement.

What are the chances you or your campaign will go viral in a way that ALS had?

According to Wochit’s 2017 Social Index Report, only 1.1% of Facebook videos actually go viral, i.e. receive over a million views. The chance your tweet will go viral is even smaller, as Yahoo study has shown that a humble 0.1% of millions of analysed tweets went viral – and mainly because an influencer tweeted and/or retweeted. And that’s just it – influencers, alongside the media (such as news outlets) play a big part in making your campaign go viral. It all depends on their interest in sharing it, as the aforementioned challenge has shown us.

So, where does this leave you? Perhaps chasing virality until you make it like Gretchen from Mean girls and try making virality happen, when it’s just not going to happen? Or do you direct your attention elsewhere that may be more worthwhile?

Read 6 Tips to Write Trending TikTok Hashtags for Your Brand in 2024

Content is where it’s at

Focusing on consistently creating quality content relevant to your target audience. When you chase virality, you chase the unchaseable – you can never know for sure that’s the one campaign that’ll go viral. It’s like shooting in the dark – you don’t know if you’ll hit your target.

Consistent content, on the other hand, helps you build a relationship with your audience.

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and with it – Coca Cola Christmas campaigns. Coca Cola has been building its Christmas story ever since the 1920s. In that time, they’ve achieved such recognition that their campaigns now symbolise the official start of the Christmas season. How, you may ask? By building a relationship with their audience. Coca Cola is especially known for this, as their entire brand is built on emotional connection. It has become a synonym for family, friends and tradition. Their Shake up Christmas and Give a little happiness campaigns both tell a story of spreading love and kindness during the holidays and that resonates with their audience. And Coca Cola didn’t accomplish this by laser focusing on making a one hit wonder. Rather, they focus on consistently delivering content meant to engage their audience’s interests.

They are not alone in this. Nike has been tackling social issues in its campaigns, while at the same time tying their brand to athleticism and sports. Dove has been telling the story of Real Beauty for a little over a decade now and Dollar Shave Club went from a viral video to a grooming oasis for men.

People can be fickle, and quickly move on from one thing to the other. Which is why, as long as you focus on making your content consistent and interactive like those brands do, you’re building trust and getting loyal customers.

And loyal customers are the key. They are the ones that build up your brand and make you who you are. And they do it because they trust you and because you continually meet and exceed their expectations. So, when the time comes to spread the word, they’ll be the first in line.

Practice social listening

This is where the whole concept of social listening gains importance. It truly gives you an opportunity to discover new content for your audience. There are many tools today, such as Determ itself, that help you listen in to what your audience is saying about your brand.

All you have to do then is pay attention. If you know how your audience engages with your brand, what’s troubling them or what are the newest industry trends, you get an opportunity to create personalized content tailored exactly to their needs. Paying attention also helps you engage a wider range of (potential) customers across social media by interacting with them. You can reply to their comments or tweets that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. And while it may seem like more work, there are actual rewards.

Planète Chocolat is one of the brands using Determ on a daily basis for precisely this reason. They use the tool to generate sales, while also building a close relationship with their potential customers. In the words of their CEO, Ahmed Men, they are being their heroes. What they so successfully do is finding social media users looking for inspiration in gift giving – be it for Valentine’s day, Mother’s day or birthdays.

Once they discover these potentials, they offer them their rich belgian chocolates. As a result? Planète Chocolat is building its Twitter community, driving traffic to their site and generating sales.

Does it still seem like a lot of work?

By paying attention and listening to users you can learn their language, their tone of voice, their problems and needs. Once you pay attention to them, you can understand them. Once you understand them – the rest (content) will come easily.

Which brings us back full circle. Content is at the heart of everything – even viral marketing. Only viral marketing is rather dependable on external factors such as media’s interest in said content. On the other hand, consistent, quality and personalized content is more internal as it depends on your commitment to social listening.

So, the questions remains – do you keep chasing that elusive virality or do you start delivering consistent content to your audience?

At the end of the day, it all depends on your goals. Do you just want your five minutes of fame and short term results? Or are you going to work towards achieving lasting and profitable outcomes?

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