A Complete Guide to Viral Marketing

upqode | Jun 10th, 2022

For marketers, viral marketing sounds like a dream come true. It’s the quickest and most efficient business marketing strategy. Viral marketing is a shortcut on the way to successfully spreading the word about your product, brand, or service. However, there’s a catch. 

It’s not easy to go viral.

Virality can only be achieved by following a set of techniques. Getting to know the basics of viral marketing, its workings, type, and examples can help you in curating content with chances of going viral and increasing your sales

In this article, I’m going to take you through a detailed guide on viral marketing, its importance, techniques, and examples. 

Let’s get started. 

What is Viral Marketing?

Living in the digital age, you have probably come across various “challenges” on TikTok and Instagram. You have retweeted several memes on Twitter. Maybe your local sandwich shop went viral by posting a witty tweet leading to a high in sales. This is a viral marketing definition. 

A viral marketing strategy is a business and advertising strategy in which an ad or post is widely shared across the internet by people. These posts make people talk about your product by genuinely sparking their curiosity, and enthusiasm and eventually, engaging them about your product. 

viral marketing
Source: Unsplash

The term virus is used in this type of marketing to indicate the rapid scale and speed with which the posts are shared from one person to another. 

So, according to viral marketing definition; when consumers share information regarding a product or service actively across the internet. 

In this type of social media marketing, the customers become the promoters of the brand or product. For instance, you probably retweet several tweets a day. Let’s say, one out of ten tweets is actually marketing a product directly or indirectly. That makes you the promoter of the brand without even being affiliated with it. 

So, how can you go viral? 

In the past years, going viral was a tough job. But, today it has become quite easy. Yes, not everyone can go viral. There are a set of techniques you need to follow. However, if your content resonates with the customers, they will definitely share it. And so, your post will spread like a virus among social media users. 

Importance of Viral Marketing 

An example of viral marketing is: 

Have you noticed how HR managers actively try to find the most creative social media manager amongst a pool of talent while hiring one for a job? 

That’s because viral marketing holds significance to every single business. An innovative marketer can ensure an increase in your traffic and ultimately, your business’s sales. 

While viral marketing is completely luck by chance, it comes with numerous benefits for the company. 

Benefits Target
Low-cost advertisingBudget-friendly for small businesses
Brand awareness and reachSpike in brand exposure in a short period of time
Rapid growthGrowth of the company in a relatively short time

Low-Cost Advertising

Viral marketing strategy is cost-effective advertising for big or small businesses. The promoters are people who will like and share your content readily for free. And it will cut down the cost that you usually spend on paid advertisement. 

Brand Awareness and Reach

Viral content has the potential to reach a diverse audience and increase your brand awareness to a larger scale. In some cases, viral marketing can be even more effective in terms of reach and awareness than paid ads. 

Rapid Growth

The best thing about viral marketing? It skyrockets your company’s growth.

The growth of a company is a painstaking and long process that takes years. And, viral marketing has proven to be the shortcut that can lead to the explosive growth of your company in only a matter of time.

Types of Viral Marketing

There are different types of marketing methods that are carefully tailored to target the audience and build brand awareness. 


This type of viral content intends to target the emotions of the audience by provoking feelings of anger, love, laughter, or sadness. This is one of the most effective types of viral marketing. This is because emotions – negative or positive – are hard to let go of. 

By personally resonating with the targeted audience, the message compels the user to share it across social media.

For instance, a viral ad might bring tears of joy to your eyes or fill your heart with happiness. You instantly share it with your friends and followers, thus kick-starting the chain of virality. 

Refer to a Friend

Incentive viral marketing campaigns are one of the most effective ways of spreading the word about your business. This type of marketing strategy offers rewards or incentives to the user if he shares the link to your product with a friend. 

Moreover, your friend is also rewarded with a discount if they use your referral link. 

For instance, there’s a new private bus service in your area and you download its app. The app offers to give you 50% off your first 5 rides if you send a referral link to a friend. Plus, your friend will also receive the same discount if they use your referral link. 

Amplified Viral Marketing

Most of the viral campaigns now are carefully tailored after months of research and planning the perfect strategies. 

This type of campaign is usually conducted by big companies and corporations. 

Luck of Draw 

While most viral marketing campaigns are meticulously planned to go viral, the element of luck plays a key role in them. You can spend months on a campaign and it may not be well received by the audience. 

person using laptop and mobile
Source: Unsplash

On the contrary, a simple tweet can go viral and shoot your company’s businesses to the sky. Or maybe it’s an ad that you did not expect to go viral. As I discussed before, virality largely depends on the relatability of the content. If an ad night resonates with the audience more and so, they circulate it among their social networking circles. 

Create Buzz

Viral ads that intend to create a buzz regarding a product aim to excite people and give them something to talk about. This way, word spreads about the ad – and the product – and more audience is reached. Consequently, the ad becomes a hot topic of discussion. So, even if you were not one of the promotors of the ad, you are still quite aware of it. 

Examples of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing has found its way to the top of marketing strategies, and that too is for a reason. Successful viral marketing has led to successful businesses. Here are a few examples of the most renowned content that went viral. 

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

A recent example of viral marketing is: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

If you were a part of social media in 2014, there’s no way you would have missed the Ice Bucket Challenge that was all over social media. 

In this challenge, the previous participant invited new ones to empty a large bucket filled with iced water on their heads. The participants had 24 hours to complete the challenge. In case of refusal, the invited participant had to donate money to the cause. 

After completing the challenge, the participant was required to nominate atleast 3 more people to be a part of the ice bucket. And, so the long chain was formed. 

The challenge began to raise awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis disease and quickly took the internet by storm. More than `17 million participated in it including the most famous celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, etc. 

Consequently, the campaign generated $115 million in donations within eight weeks. Normally, charities would not attract much attention. But the element of fun in this challenge helped it make rounds on social media. 

E.l.f. #eyeslipsface Cosmetic Challenge on TikTok

In the past few years, TikTok has proven to become the most ideal platform for marketers. Many products, services, and art – books, movies, and music – are being promoted through the platform to target Gen Z. 

However, the most viral campaign on TikTok is credited to e.l.f.: a cosmetic company that created a song particularly to promote the campaign. 

The brand spent time on thorough research and began a campaign to target Gen Z by creating a buzz around a song.  By making a hashtag (#eyeslipsface) that spread across TikTok like wildfire, the campaign encouraged the users to post videos of their eyes, lips, and face with the song that was specially created for the campaign. 

The video was shared with their followers and as a result, over 2.8 million videos were created by people. This earned TikTok a sweet spot in the marketer’s book. 

Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich

Sometimes, viral marketing is spontaneously posting a single tweet and watching it all go viral. This is what happened to Popeye’s chicken sandwich in 2019. 

Interactions between competitors on social media are often enjoyed by the users. And can sometimes surprisingly result in a rise in sales. The best example is when Popeye’s introduced a chicken sandwich in 2019, which quickly got famous. 

Subsequently, people started drawing comparisons between Popeye’s chicken sandwich and the classic chicken sandwiches at Chick-Fil-A. Chick-A-Fil saw the opportunity and claimed it by calling themselves the “original”.

Popeye’s retweeted the tweet with a hilarious response. Due to this, people started rushing to Popeye’s to get a taste of sandwiches and decide for themselves which one is better.  

Oreo’s Dunk in the Dark

Super Bowl is the time of the year when different companies are insanely competing for the best spot for ads to market their products. This is because almost 100 million people watched the games. As a result, the ads that play in between the games cost millions of dollars! 

However, in 2013, Oreo did not have to struggle much to score a spot in these ads. 

Mercedes Superdome experienced a power outage that lasted for over thirty minutes. Oreo saw the opportunity and grabbed it by tweeting a picture of a black background and the Oreo cookie. The tweet read, “you can still dunk in the dark” 

Oreo’s quick and witty response was loved by the users. And it was shared thousands of times across social media. Subsequently, Oreo stole the attention from Super Bowl games and focused it entirely on their products. 

This incident has become one of the most famous viral marketing examples. And it teaches marketers the importance of taking advantage of the timing. 

Wendy’s Chicken Nugget Retweet Challenge

Who doesn’t love a bit of a challenge?

What started off as a playful challenge in 2017, quickly became a trending topic on social media. 

While eating chicken nuggets at Wendy’s, Carter Wilkerson tweeted how many retweets he would need to get chicken nuggets free for an entire year. Wendy was quick to reply with, “18 million.” 

Carter went on to ask his followers to retweet the tweet for him to reach the goal. While Carter’s tweet was retweeted by millions of people, he still failed to hit the goal. However, Wendy recognized his efforts and decided to grant him the wish. 

For Wendy’s, the tweet seemed harmless (and practically impossible). However, Wendy’s ended up receiving a positive attitude from all over the globe and a string of new customers too. This shows how viral marketing can happen with luck by chance too. 

Dove Real Beauty Sketches

While most companies have implemented the element of humor in their campaigns, Dove took a different route and created an ad that personally resonated with the users. 

In 2013, Dove made an incredibly moving video called Real Beauty Sketches. For this video, the marketers at Dove hired sketch artists affiliated with the FBI. Then, they asked random people to describe their features to the artist. Afterward, the relatives of the people were asked to do the same regarding the first person. 

The results were astounding as the women were found to be overly critical of their looks. The video opened the public’s eyes to the internal struggles faced by women regarding confidence and appearances. 

The video went on to receive a whopping 163 million views around the world and over 4.6 billion impressions. This way, the imminent need to emotionally connect with the audience was emphasized. 

Viral Marketing Techniques

Have you ever been surprised by a sudden spike in your blog’s traffic and sales?

You have probably been trying to achieve the same effect but have failed repeatedly. 

If you are a small business, spending tons of might on digital marketing might intimidate you a little. This is where viral marketing comes to your rescue as this form of budget-friendly marketing is mostly done by the people themselves. All you need to do is put in some effort to get started. 

Viral marketing is quite easy these days and can be conducted by any type of business whether it’s large cooperation or a small business operated from the home. 

I have enlisted a number of techniques that you can use to make the type of content that has the potential to go viral.

Target the Audience 

The first and most vital step of viral marketing is getting to know who your target audience is. Knowing your audience means getting a better understanding of the kind of content you need to create to generate more traffic. 

This knowledge will help you in constructing the right kind of message with the relevant audience in mind. Plus, this way you’ll also discover the relevant type of viral marketing. 

Moreover, it’s extremely crucial for you to figure out the platform that works the best for you. For instance, if your target is Gen Z, you can use platforms such as TikTok and Instagram to reach out to more people. If you use Facebook, your plan will fail as Facebook is not a trending among Gen Z anymore. 

On the contrary, if you’re selling furniture targeting people in their 40-50, you might want to gravitate more towards Facebook. 

For instance, if you are targetting young women aged 10-25 for a vintage t-shirt brand, you should use Pinterest and Instagram as marketing tools. 

Videos That Inspire

Long gone is the time when people spent minutes reading blogposts or even watching videos. Now, people are more inclined toward short and catchy videos. 

Making a video is not such an easy job. If you want users to spend even a single minute watching your videos, you need to make it creative and attention-grabbing. 

You already know your audience and platform, now you can figure out which element you can use in your video. You can make one that can spark emotions of joy or sadness in the audience. Or you can make a short and witty skit centered around your product. 

Whichever factor you choose, make sure that the content of the video is original and creative to hook the attention of viewers, and make them engage with your product. 

Plus, if the audience really likes your video, they will surely share it across social media and eventually, it will get viral. 

Furthermore, the video will also get embedded on various blogs and websites which will increase your traffic. 

The only catch is: that your video should be innovative otherwise it will probably be scrolled down the feed. 

Offer Products and Services for Free

Who doesn’t love receiving free goodies? 

Customers are instantly attracted to businesses that offer something in return for free. Yes, whether it’s a beautiful patterned mask or vouchers, customers will feel elated to buy more and even recommend you to their friends and family. 

You might believe that giving something away for free – no matter how small – does not progress your company’s growth. However, in the long run, this type of marketing will surely display staggering results. 

Have you noticed how a ‘buy one get one free’ immediately hooks your attention? 

Even if the product is not something you would usually buy, the label ‘get one free’ will make you stop and take a look at it. That’s because “free” is the magic word and easily one of the most used marketing tactics that really work.  

Moreover, you can choose to run giveaways on social media to promote your products. Giveaways are genuinely loved by the audience because they’re getting something for free by only sharing your content on their social media. 

In return, you get publicity which raises your traffic and reach a lot too. 

If you’re a small business that can’t afford to run giveaways, you can start referral programs to advance your digital marketing. Referral programs enable customers to avail of a specific discount, let’s say 15%, if they send the link to the product to their friend and if the friend accepts it.

 Plus, the friend is rewarded with the same discount too! 

Support a Noble Cause

There are so many noble causes that you can support while maintaining your identity as a responsible brand and associate that happily gives out to the world. 

Many businesses choose to raise awareness of various diseases or heartbreaking issues that are happening around the world. 

Some even go as far as donating a specific percentage of money that was obtained from the selling of a product to a non-profit organization. 

Here’s what you can do: find an issue and develop a strategic way to promote it through your business. It can be anything from raising awareness on women’s education or donations for a patient. 

The next step is: finding a way to promote it. You can use hashtags, campaigns, or even challenges to spread the word. 

In 2015, TOMS also started a campaign called #WithoutShoes. During this campaign, Toms offered to donate a pair of shoes to every child in need every time a user posted a unique photo of their bare feet on Instagram. 

As a result of this campaign, people from over 30 countries took part in the hashtags with over 296,243 children receiving TOMS Giving Shoes. Therefore, this strategy integrated noble cause with viral marketing proved to be the most successful campaign run by TOMS.  

Synchronize Your Offline and Online Marketing 

One mistake that most marketers make when it comes to viral marketing is: that they focus on only one aspect of it and most of the time, it’s online marketing. 

The online and offline marketing is conducted separately and in isolation from one another, ending up with distinguished and slow results, and less brand exposure. 

It’s extremely important to keep the two marketing styles in sync with one another to achieve the best possible results in viral marketing. 

In order to do that, design similar content for your physical and online marketing tools such as similar textual content on social media posts, e-newsletters, ad copy and flyers, brochures, and billboards. Keep the content design synchronized and creative to ensure brand publicity. 

There are various online web design tools that can assist you during this process, such as UPQODE. 

Source: Upqode 

UPQODE is a web designing platform and viral marketing agency that equips users to create the best picture while it handles all the factors such as designing and developing the digital assets. You can use UPQODE to delve into the designing field for your business. 

UPQODE enables users to create unique and creative content for offline and online marketing. 

Moreover, UPQODE is an all-in-one package that offers a plethora of services such as web designing and web development, and digital marketing to ensure that your brand stands out in the market.

So, if you’re confused about how to get started digitally, contact UPQODE viral marketing agency to help you win the digital market and audience with the most artistic content. 

Influencer Campaigns

We’re living in a digital age where almost every single person has an account on every platform. So, if you want to increase your brand exposure, you need to maintain a social media presence. 

However, having a social media presence does not mean only posting pictures and running a few paid ads every other day. That’s a lot of work!

On the contrary, you should look up Influencers’ viral marketing campaigns to leverage more reach. 

Influencers are micro-celebrities who hold a lot of power in the industry. This is because their opinions regarding tried and tested products are valued among the targeted customer. Therefore, it’s crucial for you to get noticed by the Influencers in your niche with unique web design.

How to get noticed? 

It’s rude to ask Influencers to share your content. You need to put some effort and making innovative and eye-catching content that impresses your audience. Consequently, the Influencer will share it with their followers, thus increasing your traffic. 

Plus, you can send them PR packages and paid promotions to get noticed by their followers. You can also collaborate with them for a giveaway, thereby generating more publicity for the brand. 

Create an Emotional Connection

Every day you share several posts, memes, and videos. Maybe you find them funny or they spark feelings of anger, joy, or sadness in you. Regardless of the feeling, these posts inspire you in a way that compels you to share them with your friends and family. 

Viral marketing is all about evoking emotions in the audience. Ultimately, your viral marketing will only work if it spurs the feelings of the audience enough to pique their interest. 

How to do it

Take a lot at your product and determine the feeling that you want to associate with it. You can even use the element of anger for an effective call-to-action in your content. Or maybe a funny video that would be well-received among the audience and generate more revenue due to its wittiness. 

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s done in a creative way and driven deeply by the emotions. 

Think Out of the Box

If you want to stand out among a market of competitors, you need to think out of the box.

Also, if you want people to notice you and your product, you need to do something entirely different from what others are doing. 

If you do what your competitors are doing, sooner or later you’ll be labeled as a copycat. Plus, it will reduce your identity and originality. Sure, you should get inspired by other people in the industry but inspiration is better than plagiarism. 

Nonetheless, it’s better to do something different. Something that your audience has never seen before. You can even add the element of surprise to your content to shock the audience.

If you’re running out of ideas, take inspiration from the work that already exists. And you can have your own fun and creative take on it. However, it should be different from the original work. So there are no chances of plagiarism. 

Reinforce Your Message

Don’t think your work is done if your message got viral and is well-received by the audience. 

With the number of ads a user comes across every single day, your ad might not remain in the audience’s memory for so long. 

So, what should you do to remain relevant? 

Since you have already hooked the audience to your product, it is not such a difficult job to get it done again. You need to remind them of your existence and ensure that you stay relevant to them. 

If your ad went viral, you need to create more innovative ads to reinforce your message to the audience. The idea is the same but the execution is different. Making an even more unique ad will raise your value to the customer who will admire your originality and consistency. 

Key Takeaways 

Viral marketing has become the goal of every marketer in the industry. It has a different meaning to different individuals. For some, it’s exposing your brand to a thousand users while to others, it’s about reaching a million people. 

Regardless of the definition, viral marketing holds significance in ensuring your brand’s publicity to the massive public in only a short period of time. This article details a complete guide to viral marketing including examples, types of marketing, and techniques to get you started. 

Filed under: Marketing

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