What is Viral Advertising?


When we work with our clients and start talking about marketing and advertising strategy, there is a common subject that tends to become the focus of the meeting. The start of it goes a little something like this:

"What is viral marketing?"

Below is our attempt to simplify and clarify what viral advertising is and how it can be achieved.

In this review, we will go over the Top 10 Ingredients for Viral Advertising:

  1. Long content gets more shares than short content.
  2. Getting more shares on Facebook.
  3. Getting more shares on Twitter.
  4. Make people come back for more.
  5. People love to share infographics.
  6. 10 wins on the list
  7. If it's trustworthy, people will share it. 
  8. Get an influencer on bored.
  9. Dig up and re-share old content.
  10. The best day to post for social shares.

Viral advertising is creating something worth sharing

Obviously it is a little more complex than that, but it's a start to achieving viral transmission.

Something worth sharing can come in many forms. It can be a call to action, a well thought out advertisement or video, a revolutionary product, or even a rabbit being hauled away by a hawk in front of a family. There is one thing in common with each of these scenarios. They are all worthy of multiple levels of sharing... viral!

To understand what I mean by multiple levels of sharing, let's take a look at this crappy graphic below. In the graphic, you will see that stickman one on the left came up with something brilliant. Who knows, maybe it was a way to look different from one another. He shared it with a core group of stick friends and followers he has a first degree connection with. Sharing content through first degree connections maximize the chance for viral effect because these people care about what you have to say. This is important in viral advertising.

So... he shared it with his stick followers on Facebook and they liked it.


Why viral sharing happens

To really understand and answer the question, "what is viral advertising", let's look closer at what becomes viral.

Noah Kagan posted a really great article in the Huffington Post, and it's all about why some articles and posts gets shared virally and others don't.

To sum up the graphs below, here is what you need to know:

Create really great content that is in-depth and covers a topic completely. Include images, graphs, infographics, and other visuals. Make it interesting and engaging. DON'T be boring! 

Top 10 Ingredients for Viral Advertising

1. Long content gets more shares than short content.

Make sure your viral advertising campaign include articles with no less than 2000 words. Articles with 2000 words or more get more shares.

2. Having at least 1 image in your post means more shares on Facebook.

People on Facebook love photos. Make sure your photos include the proper meta information and are catching at first glance. People see a lot of photos on Facebook and if you want yours to get noticed, make sure it's good.

3. At least one photo in your post tweeted on Twitter means more shares.

Just like Facebook, make sure your post tweet includes a photo. Not everyone is posting great content on Twitter. Even fewer are posting content without photos.

4. Make people laugh, amuse them, or make them say WTF?

People share things that strike a cord. Funny cat videos get shared because they are funny. Sad stories get shared because they are sad. Create something that gets the reader emotionally involved. Feelings make viral advertising work.

5. People love to share infographics.

Infographics make it really easy to present a bunch of otherwise boring data in a way that is fun and visually appeasing. It is quicker to digest and worthy of sharing.

6. 10 wins on lists.

According the the article by Noah Kagan, lists with 10 items get more shares than any other numbered list. Why do you think this list has 10 items?

7. If it's trustworthy, people will share it.

Because sharing things with those who follow you puts your stamp of approval on the content that they received, people want to make sure its trustworthy and credible. Make sure your content is true and accurate.

8. Get an influencer on board.

Infographics make it really easy to present a bunch of otherwise boring data in a way that is fun and visually appeasing. It is quicker to digest and worthy of sharing.

9. Dig up and re-share old content.

That old content that you wrote off should be put back into your posting schedule. Just like the first day you posted it, it is likely still relevant. Who knows, now it may be a hot topic.

(side-note: I worked with a client who had old articles from 2012 sitting stale on her blog. They were nowhere in the viewable area, and only accessible through a site search. On Google, one particular article had fallen to the 3rd page. I took a few seconds to change the posted date to a current date and in less than 2 days, the article was #2 on the first page of Google for its primary keyword. Even more important, the search term received over 2,000 searches per month! A 10 second update resulted in thousands of new visitors each month.)

10. The best day to post for social shares is Tuesday.

Want to get the most out of your advertising efforts and reach that viral capacity? Share on Tuesdays. This has been identified as the best day for sharing content for shares on social networks.


There you have it. "what is viral advertising" explained. to sum it all up, make sure that your content is worth sharing. Make sure your content evokes emotion, preferably awe. Make sure to include compelling and capturing images. Reach out to those influencers and get their share power. Dig up your old content, it still has value. Last but not least, remember Tuesday. It is the day no one really thinks about... unless they are sharing stuff on social media.


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