Viral Marketing – The Good, The Bad & The Effective


Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is definitely my favourite form on online marketing. The main reason for this is the authenticity of it. If done well, you can be sure that your message was really interesting and relevant for the people that were exposed to it and sharing it with their friends. But like any field of marketing, there are good and bad ways of doing it.

So what is considered good viral marketing? Well, in the following post I’ll try to provide a few rules for you to use and show some examples of good and bad viral marketing.

Viral Marketing

Why Viral Marketing?

Let’s start by understanding why viral marketing is so important to your business.

  1. Reputation – When you are promoting your business on the web, you have to maintain your brand’s reputation. A good reputation can be the difference between a deal taking place or not.
  2. SEO – Google has admitted that part of their ranking algorithm is based on social engagement and surprisingly enough, especially when it comes to G+.
  3. Social Media – Social media can become another great traffic source to your site. People click on the shared item that they get from friends and they reach your site.

There are many more advantages to viral marketing, but with just these 3 reasons you can understand why investing your resources in viral marketing is so important. Now that we’ve established why viral marketing is used, we can get down to business.  So “How do you do smart viral marketing without it back firing on you?”

Don’t Be Limited By Niche

First thing you have to learn is to think outside the box! Don’t limit yourself to your niche. You can choose related topics which communicate the idea you want to pass on indirectly. One good example for this is this post about creating handmade scratch cards that was published by an online scratch cards provider ‘’. The site itself doesn’t have anything to do with arts and crafts, but they relied on one common detail and added another relevancy it the form of useful theme ideas for your handmade scratch cards if you visit their games section.

Another great example is this Bodyform video (below) which was prepared as a ‘reply’ to a post published by a ‘Richard’ on his Facebook wall. The video is humorous take on the dynamics between women and men and doesn’t mention the company’s products at all. But the exposure is incredible – almost 3.5 million views, and with minimum costs.

This example also takes us to my next point…

Making Use Of An Existing Buzz

When a video, image or a article has already gone viral, they can actually become a springboard. In order to manage something like this you have to plan ahead, open your eyes for any hot new trends and publications, set some Google alerts with related words, subscribe to related YouTube channels, follow Tweets and basically do anything that will help you be aware of relevant viral stories that get published.

I don’t know if BodyForm happened to bump into this publication, if they themselves initiated it or if they actively searched for such posts. But no matter what the case is, they reacted fast and to the point with a lot of humour and not only enjoyed the social buzz the initial post had, but managed to pass it by far.

Don’t Go There

Let’s say that users would find out that the original post that was followed by the BodyForm video was a fake created by them? Do you think they would still get such positive reactions? Where do you place the red line? When does it become too irrelevant, too ridiculous and too obvious for the viewers? The answer for this is not easy and is surely different with every case. The main thing you need to consider is “Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your audience“. They will be fine, in most cases, with a brand using a funny video to promote itself indirectly, but they will not forgive an attempt to fool them.

Take this Sony PSP viral campaign where they opened a fake blog that was allegedly opened by 2 guys that wanted to spread the word about how to convince your family to buy you a PSP for Christmas. That little white lie ended up sending Sony to a court of law!

So you know that lying is not a good idea, but what lengths would you be willing to take? In this case you just need to use some common sense to figure out what falls under the category of tasteless or way too out of context. The Boston bomb scare that was supposed to promote a new movie is a good example of a really bad joke which was way, way, way out of context!!!

To Conclude

With all that said, I strongly recommend that you don’t take things to your own hands unless you are 100% sure you know what you’re doing. Hire a professional that knows what he/she is doing and make sure you use control groups BEFORE you launch the campaign. Big companies with a lot to lose should especially follow this rule. As for small companies, with a small advertising budget, I suggest copying existing ideas and giving them a little twist that will make them your own. This approach is based on the belief that if it worked once, it can work again.

We have covered the importance of viral marketing, some basic notions that will help you create a good campaign and of course, big ‘Don’t dos’ when it comes to viral marketing. Hopefully this article will help you start your first steps in this amazing marketing method or at least stop you from making some critical mistakes.

Have you seen any good or bad examples of viral marketing?  Have you had any positive experiences yourself from a campaign that you set up yourself?  Let us know below and feel free to leave your comments!

About Natalie Halimi

Natalie is an online marketing expert with vast experience in different marketing methods, including viral marketing and SEO. You can learn more by following her on LinkedIn or Google+.

  • Andi the Minion

    I believe the Body Form video was a response to a joke post that Richard posted onto their actual business page. It worked really well for them, I saw the video and thought wow what a video.

    Viral marketing is powerful but to get something in our line of business to go viral without being too off key is difficult. Something I think about regularly but have yet to come up with any great ideas.

    • Yeah, I thought the BodyForm video was great! Very funny and a direct response to a comment. Of course the comment itself could have been part of the campaign, but it still works.

      I know what you mean about our industry. As very small sites, it can be hard to get noticed. I guess you need a truly unique and creative idea, but that is easier said than done! Hmmm???