A #virus is a tiny cell that replicates quickly and takes over the population of cells. You could say that a virus is the Alexander the Great of the cellular world – keen on world domination and adept at conquering the weak. Much like a virus, a #viral video, tweet, Facebook update, photo, etc. . .is an item of the digital realm that quickly grows and spreads in popularity at an exponential rate. #ViralMarketing facilitates and encourages people to continue to pass along the message. Viral marketing is essentially REALLY good word-of-mouth marketing (usually related to digital platforms). One of the most popular viral marketing campaign as of late is the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. Not only did it spread awareness about a little known, debilitating health condition, it also raised a ton of funds of a relatively little-known foundation.
So, what makes something viral? The high pass along rate. A large number of shares, likes, and even comments in a short amount of time can very quickly snowball into exponential reach. The only downfall is that viral marketing fizzles just as quickly as it grows. Think about the ALS ice bucket challenge. For 2-3 weeks, your social media profiles were likely inundated with challenges, videos, and other related posts that had to do with ALS. But, just as quickly as that claim to fame grew, the public interest is slowly waning because of oversaturation.
The point is, the campaign did its job. It raised a boat load of funds and opened a lot of eyes to the struggles surrounding ALS victims and family members alike. But, what made it so effective? First, it had never been done before. This intrigued a lot of people who would normally overlook such a seemingly silly #trend. At first glance, dumping a bucket of ice on your head seemed about as pointless as #planking in random spots across town. It may have taken several posts in your feed before you actually mustered enough curiosity to open one of those silly videos, but when you finally did, how could you not donate and dump a bucket of icy water on your head (at best) or watch a few more of these videos that were (at worst) a guilty pleasure along the way? The point is, it spread awareness like no standard seminar or standard awareness campaign could ever do. For once, there was value behind this silly trend that you might be willing to back.
But, why were so many people jumping on the band wagon anyway? Because it called for a simple, totally achievable action that required little effort on the participant’s part. AND? It was a challenge. Simple as that. The ALS ice bucket challenge called for action. And, it worked! The soon-to-be ice victim didn’t need to jump through hoops to participate. This made it accessible to the general public. And, by making it a challenge that allowed for people to tag friends and family, it triggered our natural love for competition (some more than others). The point is, the ALS ice bucket challenge became the most popular claim to temporary fame across nearly every social media platform. It became fun! That’s the key to viral marketing. You need to be able to make people feel involved and in touch with your brand.
For another take on the viral success of the ALS ice bucket challenge, see: http://bit.ly/1r1Gfab.