5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Viral Marketing

If you have a website, app or business, chances are you’ve wondered what would make it go viral. A common misconception of this idea is that the word “viral” simply describes a piece of content that spreads like wildfire – like the latest funny video on YouTube. However, while content is important to viral marketing, it’s actually YouTube that’s experiencing viral growth, not the video itself. The video is just the “viral media” or what’s actually being shared to spread traffic to the site or app itself.

So what is viral marketing? When you see the latest Epic Mealtime video on YouTube or a clip of some D-list celebrity getting in a brawl at a club, that site grows virally when you send it to many of your friends. As the video spreads, more and more people are exposed or re-exposed to YouTube’s video player. Then they get more users to their site, return dormant traffic and likely get you to watch even more through their “recommended for you” feature.

This media being displayed in YouTube’s player is just a tool to help their application spread, and it’s just a single piece of a much larger viral puzzle. The content creator is simply using YouTube as a medium of marketing more akin to PR and is not experiencing viral growth herself. It should also be noted that YouTube is more unique these days as their user-generated content model allows for “channels,” so content creators actually may see user growth in the form of channel subscribers, although this is still a feature on YouTube.

What Is Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing gets its name from the spread of disease. If one person is infected, the people they touch are likely to get infected as well. Those people then infect others, who then infect others, and so on. Before you know it, there’s an epidemic. Web content spreads in a similar way, hence its name. Viral marketing is the act of leveraging your own audience to pass on your website or app to its friends. It is a form of direct response marketing where your users are the ones who pass your message on. As you get more and more users, you have more and more people simultaneously spreading your product or application. As a result, the exposure of others to your message may, in some cases, be exponential.

To increase the viral nature of your website or app, ask yourself the following five questions:

  • Why would my users share this? In other words, what inherent value am I providing my users to share my content with others? Is there intrinsic value in sharing? Will they be seen as some sort of expert, someone in the know or someone really funny?

  • What do my users get for sharing? Are there any extrinsic rewards that I’m offering in exchange? Will they earn elevated status on my site? Will they get special privileges? Will they get some sort of discount, deal or free gift?

  • What ways do I want them to share? Is the transmission of this content more applicable to a blanket wall post on social media, a one-on-one personal email invite, an address book invite or something different?

  • When do I request them to share? Am I providing calls to action right when a user would realize the value of passing on your content?

  • How quickly and easily does this referral or invite process occur? If a user follows my instructions, how quickly can others come to the site, become users and start inviting others?

Hopefully this gets you thinking about viral marketing in a clearer and more productive way as it pertains to your site or app.

A version of this post originally appeared on Viral Hero at Upshare.co.

Travis Steffen is a serial entrepreneur with multiple successful exits. He is currently the founder of Upshare, the industry leader in viral marketing tools. He also teaches about all things viral marketing along with his panda superhero sidekick, Viral Panda, over at Viral Hero. Follow him on twitter @TravisSteffen.

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