What is "Viral Advertising"?
Viral marketing or viral advertising is a business strategy that uses existing social networks to promote a product. Its name refers to how consumers spread information about a product with other people, much in the same way that a virus spreads from one person to another. It can be delivered by word of mouth, or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet and mobile networks.
The concept is often misused or misunderstood, as people apply it to any successful enough story without taking into account the word "viral".
Viral advertising is personal and, while coming from an identified sponsor, it does not mean businesses pay for its distribution. Most of the well-known viral ads circulating online are ads paid by a sponsor company, launched either on their own platform (company web page or social media profile) or on social media websites such as YouTube. Consumers receive the page link from a social media network or copy the entire ad from a website and pass it along through e-mail or posting it on a blog, web page or social media profile. Viral marketing may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, text messages, email messages, or web pages. The most commonly utilized transmission vehicles for viral messages include pass-along based, incentive based, trendy based, and undercover based. However, the creative nature of viral marketing enables an "endless amount of potential forms and vehicles the messages can utilize for transmission", including mobile devices.
The ultimate goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to create viral messages that appeal to individuals with high social networking potential (SNP) and that have a high probability of being presented and spread by these individuals and their competitors in their communications with others in a short period.
The term "viral marketing" has also been used pejoratively to refer to stealth marketing campaigns—marketing strategies that advertise a product to people without them knowing they are being marketed to.
What Makes Things Go Viral?
According to the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, there are six key factors that drive virality. They are organized in an acronym called STEPPS which stands for:
Social Currency – the better something makes people look, the more likely they will be to share it
Triggers – things that are top of mind are more likely to be tip of tongue
Emotion – when we care, we share
Public – the easier something is to see, the more likely people are to imitate it
Practical Value – people share useful information to help others
Stories – Trojan Horse stories carry messages and ideas along for the ride