Viral Marketing Initiatives: 5 Ways To Make Your Content Viral

You have heard stories about businesses gaining followers and popularity because of one tweet, or video, or post that went “viral”, but what exactly does that mean and how can you make your content viral? defines viral marketing as a marketing strategy that focuses on spreading information and opinions about a product or service from person to person, especially by using unconventional means such as the internet or email.”  What better way to share a message person to person (P2P) than social media,

There have been several stand-out viral campaigns in recent memory such as Oreo and their Super Bowl tweet, Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” ad, and even The Tonight Show with their Gas Station Prank which went viral last month. But what makes something go viral? Do the stars and planets just align causing this phenomenon? Absolutely not. Viral marketing is a science that requires a high level of market research and practice. Maybe you don’t have a multi-million dollar ad firm on your payroll, but that doesn’t mean your company can’t go viral. Here are five ways to make your content viral:

Be Agile

In Oreo’s case, overnight viral success was actually two years in the making. The company had established a set of approval rhythms between the marketing, legal and agency teams which allowed them to act swiftly when the Super Bowl opportunity presented itself. Allowing your marketing or social media team to make quick decisions when it comes to social media content is imperative.


Be Participatory

Why do videos like Gangnam Style and The Harlem Shake go viral? Because they are relatively simple videos and dance moves that can be easily recreated and uploaded by thousands of people. There was a YouTube a while back called “Sh*t Girls Say” which went viral and then generated millions of spin-offs including “Sh*t New Yorkers Say”, “Sh*t Cats Say”, and even “Sh*t Nobody Says”.

If you want to create something viral, create something that is easy to participate it.

Be Funny

Humor is a great way to generate buzz. People love a good laugh break in the middle of their work day. Take for example this commercial for Arlen’s Transmission Shop in Burbank, CA. Whether or not the business intended to be funny, I am not sure, but the video got over 3.4 million views on YouTube.

Be Controversial

You’ve heard the expression “All PR is good PR”? Well, the same applies with viral marketing. Recently clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch CEO, Mike Jeffries went on record saying that he doesn’t want larger people wearing his brand. The news quickly went viral across social media networks, becoming a Google+ and Twitter trending topic, and even spawning another viral video. Enter #FitchTheHomeless campaign:

Ultimately, did all of this negative attention put Abercrombie & Fitch out of business? No. If anything it garnered them more brand awareness and spotlight.

Be Cute

Kittens, puppies, and even dancing ponies equal viral magic. UK mobile company Three capitalized on cuteness with their “Socks” the dancing Shetland pony video:

The campaign got over 6.7 million views on YouTube, was easily sharable with widgets to share across social media, and the company even added an interactive component where you could create and share your own Shetland pony video!

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Michelle Mastrobattista is a Social Media Manager for Propel Marketing – a GateHouse Media company. She works with over fifty SMB’s creating social media strategies and helping them navigate the digital marketing landscape. @MAKEsociable

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  1. Michelle

    You mentioned viral marketing is a science, this is something I’ve seen repeated in a several places. The one question that comes to mind would be is there content that goes viral that’s not based on the “science”? Perhaps tapping into a yet untouched part of our psyche? Note, I can’t think of any example off hand. Note, the “Shift It” video was great.


  2. Great post! I had no idea about the amount of planning and practicing Oreo’s social media team did to be able to deliver content timely. A company definitely needs to be agile when it comes to capitalizing during an event such as the super bowl.

  3. Great point about being participatory. I think a common thread of very successful viral content, is being able to connect with a large group of people and find a lowest common denominator. Also having a controversial or shock factor helps to ignite the emotion or the senses. Great points.

  4. The FitchTheHomeless caught my attention – whereas I am a fan of controversy I still hesitate to agree with A&F’s approach nor would I share the video, though the attempt of contributing clothes is great. In order to be controversial and still to get people’s attention the overall brand should have a positive image in order to go viral.
    However, as usual, very professional post.


  1. […] These videos went viral because “they are relatively simple videos and dance moves that can be easily recreated and uploaded by thousands of people,” (Mastro, 2013.) […]

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