Viral marketing is a way of promoting a product or a commercial offer through which website visitors, social media users or recipients of an offer are going to pass along it to relatives, friends, followers or colleagues. The offer or content is then spread like a virus, hence the name of viral marketing.
In most cases, viral recommendation is spontaneous depending on the usefulness or humorous value of the offer or message. In other cases, recommendations or pass along can be paid through a system of rewards.
Viral marketing existed before the Internet but its potential and its scale were increased by the ease of information transmission through this media and by developing the use of social networks that equally facilitate transmission.
There are mainly two kinds of viral marketing.
The first is to add virality tools to "classic" content - blog posts, news articles, videos, email, etc. Most popular virality tools are social buttons and email pass along boxes. They are embedded in webpage and email templates.
The second form of viral marketing is to create a viral marketing campaign. The principle is to develop a specific content dedicated to become viral after the seeding phase. The campaign has a specific budget and objectives.
An illustration of viral marketing campaign planification and execution:
With a real successful viral marketing campaign, most of the exposure achieved with a message or offer is not obtained from a purchase of advertising space but earned from the recommendation phenomenon (word of mouth). In some cases, more exposure is gained through press coverage.
Most common forms of viral marketing are based on viral videos and social posts.
By nature, viral marketing is uncertain. When it goes well, a small budget may lead to millions of views, but when it doesn’t take off, the final cost of a view can be prohibitive.
See more details and examples at viral video ad.
A selection of presentations dedicated to viral marketing :
An interesting research about viral marketing :
Some viral marketing case studies :