The Cold, Hard Facts Behind Creating a Successful Viral Marketing Campaign

Written by PortMA

The Cold, Hard Facts Behind Creating a Successful Viral Marketing Campaign

The Cold, Hard Facts Behind Creating a Successful Viral Marketing CampaignSeveral years ago, I worked on a research study that focused on sports fans and social media. The goal was to help the client get a stronger, more nuanced understanding about how their target consumer uses social media. Overall, social media was seen as a tool to create and maintain connections, with some perceived differences between platforms.

Social Media and viral marketing

Consumers considered Facebook the best platform to use to connect with friends and family, while Twitter was perceived as the place to go for breaking news and information, as well as to connect with brands and celebrities.
Fast forward to several years later, and a hot topic in the world of social media is how the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taken it by storm.
Although I have not been challenged, I continue to be amazed by the number of people who have.
I’ve seen countless videos posted by many of my Facebook friends (including their parents and children), celebrities, and politicians, suggesting the challenge spans across all sorts of demographics and countries where the theme is the same, although the material used may differ (e.g., Rice Bucket Challenge in India, Rubble Bucket Challenge in Gaza).

How the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became successful

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been wildly successful at raising awareness and funds for ALS.
It’s got all of the ingredients for a high-impact, viral marketing campaign:

  • Delivers a simple, straightforward message
  • Is easily and inexpensively accomplished
  • Designed to go viral by challenging/ tagging others to participate
  • Offers a two-pronged, feel-good component (a charitable donation and a platform to highlight doing a good deed)

The Ice Bucket Challenge has been so successful that other charitable organizations are looking for ways to adopt the approach for their own fundraising efforts. But charitable organizations are not the only ones this can help.

Guidelines to a successful viral marketing campaign

If anything, the Ice Bucket Challenge has underscored the universal power of viral marketing.
Here are six guiding principles for creating a successful viral marketing campaign (originally posted on

  1. Gives away products or services
  2. Provides for effortless transfer to others
  3. Scales easily from small to very large
  4. Exploits common motivations and behaviors
  5. Utilizes existing communication networks
  6. Takes advantage of others’ resources

All six do not have to be applied to achieve success (there are no tangible give-aways for the ALS challenge). And there is no guarantee that, even if you had incorporated all six principles, your campaign would have a major impact (The ALS challenge took place during an otherwise serious and dark news period with unrest in the Middle East and Ferguson, MO. The widespread support received from celebrities almost never hurts.)
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