What is Viral Content Marketing? The Easy Guide

Is viral content marketing good for your business?

Ever since TikTok came about, all anyone’s thinking about is going viral! You can’t blame them. Everybody wants to get their name out there being spoken and shared by millions of people. Viral content marketing is one of the quickest ways to raise brand awareness. With every click, like and share, more people are learning about you, your brand and what you have to offer. Who wouldn’t want this? 

But what is viral content marketing? And how do you do it? Read ahead to find out!

What Is Viral Content Marketing?

At its essence, viral content marketing is the kind of promotion that relies on word of mouth to get your brand noticed by the most people in the least amount of time. The kind of content that you use here spreads quickly. And the key is to get your audience to share it themselves. 

Social media is the best channel for sharing viral content. It’s an easy-to-use channel that makes it very simple for users to share content with each other. This is why marketers tend to create viral content strategies specifically catered to social media. 

Viral content marketing was a thing of the past, but it has recently made its way back. This has been largely due to the meme culture that we see on social media. Memes are funny and appeal to most people. This makes them a very shareable type of content. Every one of us has seen a meme on Facebook and sent it to our friends and family. Viral marketers picked up on this trend and started using memes to promote their content. One of the most prominent examples is how Netflix repurposes content from its TV shows into memes. 

Viral Marketing vs. Guerrilla Marketing 

A lot of people confuse viral marketing with guerrilla marketing. This is because both marketing techniques produce similar results, i.e., explosive and exponential growth in promotion. But the two techniques are vastly different. 

Viral marketing can be called a type of digital word-of-mouth marketing. In contrast, guerilla marketing is breaking conventional marketing standards and taking an entirely unheard-of or considered irrational approach. Viral marketing usually takes routes that are still regarded as traditional. But the other destroys this barrier and reaches its audience in more uncommon ways. 

Another big difference between the two is their time period. Viral content tends to stay on the internet and in people’s minds for quite some time. But guerrilla marketing techniques don’t. They come in, make a great impact and disappear into thin air. 

Viral Content Characteristics

So what does viral content actually look like? Most viral content has a few things in common. All viral content is quite bold. Keep in mind that the goal of viral content is to get people to share it themselves. So stale or vague content will certainly not do. You need to catch attention and make it share-worthy. So you have to be bold in your marketing message and content. Playing it safe will not get you anywhere if you’ve decided to venture into viral marketing. 

They’re also well-timed. Timing is a key factor in getting viral. Viral content comes and goes. Because people have short attention spans, they don’t spend too much time on most content. So you must time your viral content well. For example, making content on a year-old meme will be useless. Because people have seen it too many times to pay any more attention. The bottom line is that trends rise and fade away. You need to make the most of them while they’re in the limelight. 

Viral content is purely organic. As we’ve already established, viral content marketing relies on your audience sharing content among themselves. This means that your audience holds all the power. You can’t pay advertising agencies to promote your content. Consumers aren’t stupid. Brands that invest in bots to promote their content get caught easily. Truly viral content that everyone loves spreads purely through organic means, i.e., word of mouth. 

Viral Marketing Examples

One of the most popular viral marketing campaigns has been the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In the summer of 2014, the ALS Association introduced the trend to raise donations for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. The trend quickly picked up on social media and became a global phenomenon. The challenge involved pouring a bucket of ice water on your head and nominating other people to do the same. Various influential people like celebrities and politicians picked up the trend. The Ice Bucket Challenge collected over $225 million in under a year. 

A more recent example of viral marketing is Ronaldo and Messi’s iconic photograph together. Both football players are considered the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT), and their rivalry is one to be remembered for ages. No football fan ever considered the possibility of both rivals coming together for a collaboration. But the luxury brand, Louis Vuitton, made it all happen. The photograph was released on the first day of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and became a sensation on social media. The post has over 39 million likes on Instagram and is the fifth-most-liked picture of all time. 

Pros and Cons of Viral Content Marketing


Expanded Reach: The biggest advantage of viral marketing is the potential to reach a much larger audience. Traditional marketing techniques cannot achieve this. Since viral marketing encourages people to share content on their own, brands can market to people outside of their target audience as well. 

Non-invasive: A lot of marketing techniques are intrusive and invade a consumer’s time and space. A popular example of this is pop-up ads. Nobody wants to see them, but you don’t get to choose when you see them on your screen. Viral marketing gives consumers the right to decide if they want to participate. If you come across a viral marketing trend, you have the choice to share it with someone or scroll past it. This creates a positive perception of the marketing content and the brand. 

Inexpensive: Viral marketing campaigns are significantly cheaper than any other marketing strategy. This is because brands don’t have to invest in promotion and distribution. Consumers do all the work by sharing it amongst themselves. All brands have to do is create content that will appeal to their audience. 


Immeasurable: Since viral content has exponential growth, tracking its results and effectiveness is nearly impossible. Marketers find it difficult to determine if sales were triggered by their viral content or by other marketing efforts. The only thing they can measure is if their campaign became viral or not. Or how their brand reputation changed. 

Negative WoM: The biggest disadvantage of viral content marketing is that you can’t predict how the trend will come out. There is an equal chance of a trend garnering positive or negative attention. Negative WoM can completely destroy a campaign or even the brand itself. This is because people tend to share negative content much more than positive. And it’s important to remember that the internet never forgets. 

Viral Content Marketing Best Practices

If you’re finally stepping into the territory of viral content marketing, there’s one thing you need to know. There’s no guarantee that your content will go viral. And even if it does, you won’t know if it will be positive or negative virality. But you can do a few things to increase the probability of becoming viral. Here are some viral marketing best practices to follow. 

Understand Your Audience

The first step to any marketing campaign is understanding the very people you’re targeting. Without knowing who these people are or what interests them, you can’t create content that will appeal to them. The intent of your content must match the interests of your target audience. Only then will consumers relate to your content and share it with others who can relate too. Before designing your viral marketing strategy, conduct thorough market research. It will help you understand your audience on a deeper level. Then curate content accordingly. 

Simplify Your Message

When creating your viral content strategy, it is critical to keep your message as simple as possible. The key here is to share your message in as few words as possible. Saying too much can cause information overload and distract your audience. You don’t want them to skip your content because consuming it takes too much effort. This reduces the shareability of your content and defeats the purpose. Keep a single CTA. Make your content easy to read. If it’s a video, shorten it to 15 to 20 seconds. Include only a few hashtags, ideally the ones that will go viral. 

Focus on Emotions

Human beings are inherently emotional creatures. The best way to relate your content with them is to appeal to their emotions. Most consumer purchases are driven by emotions. So targeting these is the most effective strategy. Your viral marketing campaign must appeal to at least one emotion to be successful. Every viral content ever has always touched upon people’s emotions. A lot of viral campaigns target humor or excitement. These are positive emotions that make you enthusiastic, so you’re more likely to make a purchase. But other emotions like happiness, pleasure and sadness are also great ones to target. 

Grab Attention

When you’re scrolling through Instagram, do you look at every post or read every caption? Nobody does. We’re all surrounded by a ton of content everywhere around us, but we just can’t pay attention to everything. We scroll past posts that don’t interest us quickly. As such, if you want your content to go viral, you must capture attention real quick. The average attention span of humans is about 8.5 seconds. Ideally, your content should not be longer than this. And you must hook your audience in the first second. If you don’t, your content will also get lost in the sea of social media posts. The best way is to start your content with a visual element that shocks or excites your audience. Visuals are easiest to understand, so people pay more attention to them. 

Encourage Sharing 

Since viral marketing relies heavily on word of mouth, people must share it as much as possible. But most of the time, you don’t achieve the level of sharing you want. So, you need to nudge your audience in the right direction. Your content won’t go viral if it doesn’t encourage people to share it. You can do this by including a clear and visible CTA. You can include this CTA in your message or provide it separately in the captions. A hashtag is a great way to encourage people to share your content. Both your content and CTAs should encourage people to engage with them. If not a share, a like or comment is the very least. 

To go viral, it’s essential to follow the latest trends. Keep watch on social media for the latest memes and trends. TikTok has wreaked havoc in the marketing world. Every other brand is jumping on the bandwagon. TikTok dances are a great way to capture someone’s attention which is why they go viral so easily. Following the latest trends and curating your content around them is an easy way to succeed. But you should be mindful of the trends you decide to follow. Not every trend is appropriate for your brand. Study your audience and note which trends they’re interested in. A good social listening tool can help you understand your audience much better. 

Ready for Viral Content Marketing?

Viral content marketing has made its comeback with the recent meme culture. It’s a very effective marketing technique that banks on its audience for success. The more people your content, the more viral it will become. Follow the latest trends in pop culture and focus on people’s emotions to catch attention and create your own viral campaign. 

Have you ever created a viral content marketing campaign? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Featured Image: The Mark Consulting

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