Skip to content

Get Your Online Content Going Viral

When something, like a blog, a video or other content is going viral on the net, it is big news. Why? Because everyone is sharing it and talking about it. And, when it’s huge, there’s no stopping of it. But, as with everything that becomes huge, it has a good side and a bad side.

So, it must be the dream of every professional publisher of online content that his or her content goes viral. Just think of all the page views, the back-links and subsequent money, monies from Google Ads and other affiliates… Wow!

Then it’s just about creating something to going viral. Easy, really? Not so…

What does it mean if something is going viral?

According to Urban Dictionary, something that “goes viral” is an image, video, or link that spreads rapidly through a population by being frequently shared with a number of individuals. And, yes you’re spot-on, the marketing community has labeled it ‘viral marketing’…

By the way, it seems like marketing community always has a place for new type of marketing. I’m not joking – according to Matt Press writing for Splash Copywriters, there are at least 159 types of marketing, and viral marketing is one of them. So let’s have a look at viral marketing.

What is viral marketing? Kataria and Hasan1 (2014) define viral marketing “as any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, thus creating the potential for exponential growth in the exposure and influence of the message.” The ‘viral’ part of viral marketing is indicative of potential exponential side when the strategy succeeds.

Indeed, if you have funny, sad, touching, embarrassing or shocking content to share with your online friends or groups, then that message, if it tickles the right places, has the potential of going viral.

What causes content to go viral?

Mostly, lots of luck is needed for content to go viral. It’s because almost all of the content that achieved millions of views or likes was unplanned. Indeed, they were published by ordinary people.

However, they’ve been in the right channel, with the right audience and evoking the right sentiment – all by chance…

But, your business’s content stands a better chance to go viral, if it contains one or more of the following, says Patrick Bet-David CEO, of ValueTainment:

  • If it contains humor;
  • People are fighting or arguing;
  • It’s making fun of someone;
  • It’s embarrassing or humiliating;
  • There’re controversy, rebellion, or conflict;
  • When the message causes fear, or end of the world scenarios;
  • If you publish creative product promotions;
  • It says something about sex;
  • If there’s a voice for reason; or (lastly)
  • If it’s correcting an injustice.

Patrick mentions that it is more difficult for content to go viral is it goes about value, education or ideas…

What does viral content means for your business?

A business should try to mimic the success of the unplanned and spontaneous online viral content of ordinary users. That should be the starting point of their viral marketing strategy…

Kataria and Hasan1 (2014) suggest that the strategy must include a viral element from the beginning. Other aspects that needed to be in place are, according to the two authors, the following:

  • The technical aspects of the strategy need to be developed and ready to implement;
  • The marketer must have a sense of how to seed the concept of the product or service within its target audience;
  • The audience must have the tools necessary to spread the word about the product;
  • Viral marketers should start with a product that encourages conversation because it is contagious. It needs to evoke an emotional response, creates visual curiosity, and / or becomes more useful as more people try it;
  • Marketers must insure that there is some personal benefit for the target audience to become engaged in the marketing effort.

Advantages and disadvantages of viral marketing

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages for businesses practicing viral marketing (Margaret Rouse, in Search Salesforce):

Advantages of viral marketing
  • Lower advertising costs,
  • Faster growth (exponential),
  • Mainstream media exposure, and
  • Rapid lead generation.
Disadvantages of viral marketing
  • The nuisance factor,
  • Negative marketing buzz,
  • Viral marketing is hard to measure.

Additionally, Jain and Goswami 2 (2013) cautioned the following about using viral marketing:

  • Lack of legal standards – emerging legal issues have to be considered, and
  • Lack of ethical standards – consumers may feel exploited, and used. Importantly is the matter of privacy invasion…

Remember, you’re busy with humans and their dignity.

A recent YouTube video going viral with a niche audience of South Africa

Okay, I know – for content to be labeled viral, it should have millions of views and shares. But, here in South Africa we can get away with it – the scale side I mean…

I’ve looked at this short video clip (Alternative videos) and it evoked distinct emotions in me:

  1. Empathy – we’ve had similar incidents and reactions when trying to learn our youngest daughter the skills to stay on a bicycle;
  2. Humor – the video is funny – not for Marelize I suppose…;
  3. Homesickness – because this video was shot at my high school, where lots of things happened more than 40 years ago…;

Anyway, this video achieved c. 133,000 views on You Tube in less than 10 days  – not viral, but not too bad for South Africa…


There are, and will be only a limited number of commercial content that will go viral (more that 5 million views in a short time). However, if business owners follow the recipe that results in viral status for ordinary users – well then you’ll probably have more views, visits, clicks and more money.

Therefore aim for your content going viral!

Read more: Word of Mouth Marketing for Better or for Worse 

A Marketing Plan helps you to communicate the right content to the right audience.


1 Kataria, A. and Hasan, A. 2014. Viral marketing: Elements, issues & practices, International Journal of Applied Services Marketing Perspectives, 3(1):739-743.

2 Jain, D. and Goswami, S. 2013. Role of YouTube in viral video marketing, International Journal of Management, IT and Engineering, 3(12):65-81.




Alternative videos

Leave a Reply

× How can I help you?