Viral Marketing definition

Viral marketing refers to tools and techniques aimed at using existing social networks to quickly bring about increased awareness around a brand, product or initiative. While the messages delivered as part of a viral marketing campaign can be spread via any social network, including word-of-mouth, the greatest success is typically found online on social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube.

Viral marketing is named after the fast, self-sustaining replication of viruses – successful viral marketing campaigns aim to spread content and messages in the same way. According to marketing specialists Andreas Kaplin and Michael Haenlein, viral marketing campaigns must get the right messenger, message and environment if they are to be successful.

A range of content and techniques are used in viral marketing. A certain degree of analytics and tried-and-tested formulas are being used, but the creative and ‘free’ nature of viral marketing means that innovative messages and content types can be delivered at any time.

Viral marketing typically focuses on alpha users, or the most influential people with a high degree of social capital and social currency. Algorithms are an increasingly common method of identifying these alpha users, who won’t always be the social users with the biggest networks – quality of followers and degree of engagement with followers are also important metrics.


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