It’s easy to get swept up in the allure of viral marketing when you watch certain products or services skyrocket in popularity after enough people talk about them on TikTok.
Products like Clinique’s virally famous Black Honey lipstick or those inexplicably gooey cleaning products that drove in sales because of the social spotlight they were under seem like the money, however, this fleeting internet obsession is exactly that, fleeting. Trying to recreate an online sensation deliberately to fortify that glimmer of extreme popularity is more often a miss than a hit, even when you are successful in going viral, the return on investment isn’t likely to be high.
Instead of relying on unstable tactics like viral marketing, it’s more rewarding to find something that will promise steady results. Those spikes in engagement and reach, while attractive, aren’t reliable–you can’t expect to stay relevant and hold your audience’s attention based on fifteen minutes of fame alone. The internet audience is incredibly fickle and social media fans will soon find something new to sensationalise. With a revolving door of content, memes and angry outbursts to sweep through every day, they’ll have no trouble latching onto something new.
It’s true that viral hits do work, but they can be very unpredictable.
What really works is having a good content marketing strategy. Content marketing may not get you thousands of followers and engagement overnight, but you can achieve those same numbers at a stable pace where you don’t have to worry about becoming just a passing fad. Going viral doesn’t work, content marketing does.
With its slow but steady approach to growth, content marketing empowers you and your business to address your target market’s issues and helps you earn their trust, equalling more credibility and turning you into their go-to site for solutions. When you provide genuine advice about your audience’s problems and even address what they could face in the future, you earn yourself loyal customers and brand recognition.
What is viral marketing?
What is viral marketing really? Viral marketing aims to share a message rapidly, person to person, through word of mouth to an exponential level. This could be due to one particular audience member who shares it which captivates attention, i.e. a celebrity saying they loved their experience at your restaurant, or it could be due to a big number of people finding it relevant and passing on that information at staggering rates. The internet is a huge factor here, as it helps spread the word at dizzying speeds.
In order to take advantage of viral marketing, you’ll need to offer the right message at the right time. Timing really is critical in making this work, although in most cases, it comes down to luck.
Some examples of viral marketing are:
- IHOP’s decision to change to IHOB – International House of Pancakes turned heads when they began to market themselves as “IHOB ” instead, having people guess what the “B” stood for exactly. It became a viral sensation with everyone trying to figure out what the “B” was in “IHOB” (it’s burgers).
- Oreo’s Dunk in the Dark – Oreo capitalised big on a pivotal moment in 2013 when a power outage rocked the Super Bowl. Oreo, being one of the principal sponsors of the event, was quick to react, using a simple render of a dimly lit Oreo with the caption “You can still dunk in the dark.” It went wildly viral because of how clever it was and how many people were paying attention given that the football game had been in blackout for 34 minutes.
- Zoom’s virtual background challenge – At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom ran a competition asking people to share videos of the Zoom background they had chosen with prizes awarded. They had 50,000 people register to participate as well as attracting new users to the online conferencing platform.
Viral marketing can be effective in certain situations. It can be a great way to gain sales and attract new customers who may stick around even after the initial viral moment is over, usually when they realise the products or services are of benefit or high quality. You can visit copywriting services for publishing strategy with a quality content.
Some of the companies listed here were successful in their viral campaigns because they had previous viral success or had already established a large and trusted customer base, proving again that consistency is part of the equation to marketing success.
There are certainly some great advantages of viral marketing that are worth noting:
- Bigger reach
There are also disadvantages as word of mouth is in the hands of the user. You don’t have any control over what the message is, where it goes or who it goes to or what the overall reaction might be.
Some disadvantages are:
- Difficult to predict, control or direct
- Hard to measure the impact
- Brand dilution
5 ways to make sure that you keep producing quality content
Creating and posting high-quality content consistently will earn you more organic engagement and get you better numbers overall than a strategy of throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick temporarily. A content marketing strategy isn’t as simple as creating then posting as you go, like viral marketing, instead, you need to plan your content topics, set aside time to write consistently, post it in well-timed intervals and measure your business growth to see what works.
The five steps to a solid content marketing campaign are detailed here to help you produce quality and consistent content of your own.
1. Develop a content strategy
Your content strategy is an important plan for what you’re going to post, who it’s for, which channels you’ll be sharing or repurposing your content on and the motivations behind your target market’s purchases.
Having these in place will guide you and your team to create targeted, well-structured content.
Here is the pathway to determine your solid content strategy:
- Figure out your goals
- Assess your competitors
- Decide on a medium
- Repurpose content
- Ensure you have a backlog of content
- Create a calendar
- Monitor and review posts
2. Understand your target audience
Knowing who your audience is helps you grow your numbers, nurture your customer base and attract new clients. Using marketing psychology can help you understand your market and know who you’re talking to, how to talk to them and what approach will be most effective in persuading them to trust your brand and eventually buy from you.
This is important in order to craft the perfect message and publish it on the right challenge at the right times.
There are plenty of marketing psychology tactics you can take advantage of, here are some of the key ones:
- Reciprocity – When you give something of value people feel as if they need to return the favour. This works for things like free downloadables, eBooks and samples. Giving generously upfront means you possibly receive more in the end.
- Social proof – Trust is the biggest factor behind purchasing choice and social proof is a valid and credible way to see what a business has to offer in the real world. Since we’re social beings, we want to have what other people do and need to confirm if that thing or service is helpful.
- Scarcity – When people perceive something as rare, it becomes more desirable. Feeling as if something is exclusive makes consumers value it more highly and take action more urgently.
3. Stand by your brand values
Branding is your business identity and it needs to be uniquely matched to your business values and offering. It isn’t just how your business looks and feels, but also how your business is presented to your target audience and your competitors. With a strong brand identity, you become more recognisable and stand out from the crowd.
When what your business stands for, how it looks and what you offer are matched, it builds trust with your audience because they receive exactly what they expect (possibly even more). If you say one thing, but do another it sends a confused or even untrustworthy message about your company that creates doubt.
Your content should have the same tone and feel as your brand and values to help send a consistent and clear message to anyone who reads, watches or clicks.
4. Create a posting schedule
Scheduling content can help you establish your online presence because you’ll be hitting publish at the times when your audience is most likely checking their phones or surfing their channels online. Being consistent with when you release your content also makes you seem more polished and streamlined, with a good organisational structure in place.
Your social media posts should also be set on a well-timed schedule to avoid spamming your audience with too much content or losing touch due to a lack of frequency.
5. Make your content snackable
It’s important to create comprehensive and well-researched content, but repurposing some of it to make it snackable can help you stand out and increase your content value.
Think of “snackable” content as the appetiser for the main course that is your blog. These easy to digest, bite-sized tidbits of information entice people to know more, leading them to click on the actual “meal.”
Taking the time to work out the right content marketing strategy for your business offering and target audience is crucial in attracting curiosity and maintaining interest in an internet already saturated with blogs, videos and graphics.
Make sure you plot your unique content and posting schedule to make your blogs stand out.
Once readers see how relevant, engaging and generous your website content is, they will be happy to visit and check in frequently, keeping them in touch with your brand and increasing the likelihood of them making a purchase in the near future. This is very different to the effect of viral marketing where you might achieve a sudden burst in interest from random and mismatched sources, which won’t necessarily equate to valuable leads.
Viral marketing can be helpful, but results may vary, making it a big gamble for your website marketing approach. Relying on viral leads alone isn’t proven to bring you the growth, engagement and sales you’re looking for.
Content marketing may build slowly, but it’s steady, trackable and secure, giving you avenues to provide new and relevant information consistently and solve important problems your readers are facing.