Digital Marketing

What Is Viral Marketing & How Does It Work?

By Ali, Having 13 years experience in the IT & Servicing Industry. A.I Lover, Startup Enthusiast, IoT Implementor, and Blockchain Follower.


In today’s time, it’s a common thing to hear about a new viral video, song or content over the internet. But the question here is, what is viral marketing? Marketing content that has spread through the Internet is a form of free marketing. Viral marketing is a digital marketing strategy that involves the creation of interactive & engaging content to reach as many people as possible through word of mouth or the Internet. 

Similar to a virus, a viral campaign is something that circulates fast and influences a lot of people. For example, A company can post funny videos or memes on their YouTube channel, which viewers then share through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or emails.

In order to create a successful viral marketing campaign, you need to develop content that is highly likely to be shared and presented by social media users who have a high networking potential. The name “viral marketing” derives from the fact that content spreads from person to person like a virus as we mentioned above. 

How does viral marketing works? 

With a viral campaign, there is not much that businesses have to do. A viral marketing campaign consists of only a few simple steps. 

  • A business must create content that carries out its message and targets audience interest. 
  • The message being forward must be related to people’s expectations. If the information and the content are true-to-life and accurate, people will begin sharing it. In result the content will end-up  becoming viral very momentarily.

Speaking of viral marketing, it is significantly different from classic advertising. When it comes to traditional old-school advertising through TV commercials or radio. It’s clear who the sender and intended recipient are for spreading the message. 

For Example, when it comes to viral content that spreads like wildfire, the user & potential customers play a major role as an advertising medium. Let’s say you are scrolling on Facebook and come across the content you seem to like. You share it with your friends or groups, and they do the same correspondingly. As a result, the range of potential viewers and target audience increased automatically. 

According to the STEPPS model, six factors can cause a message to become viral.

  1. Social currency – Sharing content that makes a user look good to their audience will encourage them to share it. Your brand, your content, and its messaging all can generate social currency.
  2. Triggers – Triggers can be words, phrases, or images associated with messages. A trigger is essentially anything that reminds your audience of your brand. Positive triggers that are easy for readers to recall are created by great branding. Therefore, when producing sponsored content, it’s very important that you choose the right partners.
  3. Emotion – As we know, people tend to share content that elicits some emotional feeling or gets our attention. Like it can be anything from a video of a cute puppy playing with a ball to some emotional or social awareness related to some disease. Sharing content with emotional appeal may have a social benefit since sharing sensitive content or displaying concern about a social issue may garner social currency.
  4. Public – It’s a common observation that if you present a message in a public place, people will be more likely to spread it like some news. Most people presenting a message act as social proof for it. As a social media user, let’s say you saw some influencer with a high following sharing a specific message, which will also influence you to share that message naturally.

Also Read: What’s Influencer Marketing & How It’s Influencing The World

  1. Practical Value – One of the best ways to get a message viral is to ensure that it has some practical value when consumed or shared. Content which has practical value should be relevant and full of information. If spreading a viral message allows the audience to help someone, they are willing to share it as widely as possible.
  2. Stories – Great storytelling is an excellent way of establishing a feeling of an adventure like they are embarking on a journey themselves. Creating great branded content ideas that tell a story is the best way to deliver a message. Telling a story about your brand, product, or service via video pushes social engagement that builds brand recognition. 

What are the advantages of viral marketing?

In the world of social media, viral marketing is considered one of the most useful ways for business organizations to spread their messages to a wide audience. Following are some of the key advantages that businesses can take from viral marketing. 

Suggested Read: What’s Audience Targeting & Strategies You Need To Go For

  • Low cost

Regarding viral marketing, users are the key players in distributing and sharing content. In contrast, businesses don’t have much to do. The production costs of viral marketing are similar to any marketing campaign. Still, the distribution costs are significantly lower than traditional advertising methods such as print, billboards, or television.

  • Vast Reach


A viral marketing campaign has the ability to reach out to a global scale within a short space of time and get millions of views. These campaigns are organic and don’t require large sums of money. Therefore, even a small business can get tremendous exposure. It helps in the future, too, as your brand awareness becomes high and across the board. A.L.S. Ice bucket challenge can be considered an example of a viral marketing campaign here.

The Ice bucket challenge started in 2014 to raise awareness and funds for those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The challenge included people having to pour a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads and challenge a minimum of three others to do the same and donate. Research showed that this challenge made viral waves in almost  153 countries worldwide & raised a total of $220 million. [1]

  • Non-Invasive

Viral marketing campaigns are one of the few tools to make considerable growth, and it is not a time-consuming process. Creating rapid growth is highly desired by every business, but it is rarely acknowledged. Viral marketing can help it to become a reality. Even if explosive growth is not reached, it guarantees constant business growth. It will take place at relatively less cost.  


What are the types of viral marketing campaigns? 

Following are the types of viral marketing campaigns:

  • Organic (or word-of-mouth) campaigns 
  • Amplified (or controlled) campaigns 

What is the purpose of viral marketing?

Viral marketing aims to encourage people to share a marketing message with their friends, family, and other individuals to create exponential growth in its recipients.

Who is the king of viral marketing?

Old Spice is considered the king of viral marketing with its funny and right-off-the-bat ideas and ad campaigns. It came out with its brand character, the Old Spice man who appeared in “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign in 2010. [2]

How viral marketing can be effective?

In order to generate demand for a product or service, viral marketing must create curiosity and desire. It is designed to develop excitement over nothing. It builds upon itself through word of mouth, which is essential today in all business areas.

What are some disadvantages of viral marketing?

Following are some of the disadvantages of viral marketing,

  • Association with negative groups
  • Negative word of mouth
  • Results are hard to measure 
  • Low Virality


Recently, viral marketing campaigns have been gaining prominence in the world of marketing. Yet, their influence has already been immense. Viral marketing has transformed the entire landscape of digital marketing. Viral marketing can leave an effective impression on your brand in people’s minds. At the end of the road, we can conclude this journey that it’s everyone. Desire to surf in the trending highlights by getting viral, but it’s easier said than getting it done. 

Also Read: 


[1] The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Phenomenon – Digital Marketing Institute 

[2] Top 3 Viral Marketing Campaigns to Take Inspiration From – SEMrush