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Viral marketing has been the holy grail of digital marketing in the last decade for both startups and large corporations. It has an amazing return on investment potential, which makes it a very attractive strategy.

Yet, achieving virality is very difficult, which makes it very hard to plan for. While it might produce amazing results, your viral marketing strategy is much more likely to fall flat on its face.

Taking big risks is probably not a foreign concept for any startup founder. Yet, if you plan to rely on viral marketing it’s a good idea to do it intelligently. This article should help you get off to a good start.

What Is Viral Marketing And How To Achieve It

Viral marketing is in its essence the best-case scenario for most digital content marketing strategies. Thanks to the rise of social media any digital content has the potential to become viral. Of course, some pieces of content have a much higher chance of doing so.

There are different tactics you can employ to increase the chance of virality of your content. One thing is to incentivize resharing – for example, you can run content with a giveaway asking for people to share and tag their friends in order to participate in the giveaway. Such “share” incentives are the most straightforward strategy for triggering a positive spiral.

Last but not least, keep in mind that people are less likely to share blatantly promotional content, which means that if you want to trigger virality for such content you need to think of very strong resharing incentives.

Another tactic might be to bet on humor in your content in order to increase the chance of people sharing it.

Pros Of Viral Marketing For Startups

The biggest benefit of viral marketing for startups is the possibility of disproportionate return on investment. This is important because as an early-stage startup you don’t have access to a lot of resources that you can spend on promotion. Consequently, traditional pay-per-click or other capital-intensive promotional strategies can be out of reach for you.


Moreover, the success or failure of your viral marketing promotional attempts can give you important information about the attractiveness of your offering or brand.

If the results of your campaigns are significantly different than your expectations (in both directions), then it might be worthwhile to stop and analyze the reason for the results. This analysis could give you valuable insights into your target market that you can use in your search for product-market fit.

Cons Of Viral Marketing For Startups

The biggest con of viral marketing is that it is highly unreliable. Having it as your only plan is a bad idea, as most of your attempts at virality simply wouldn’t produce the results you are hoping for.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make attempts, but it is good to interweave virality attempts into a more consistent content marketing strategy.

For example, let’s say that your main content marketing strategy revolves around LinkedIn. You engage actively on the platform and you produce regular, informative content once per week. In order to weave virality into this content strategy, you can try to create one funny niche-specific meme every other week. This way only one-fifth of your total marketing effort would rely on virality. If you don’t get lucky, you have a plan B. But in case you strike gold, then the users that come to your profile because of the viral funny meme have a higher chance of staying and converting because of the regular informative content.

Another con of viral marketing is that fire requires kindling. In other words, it’s much easier to go viral if you have a big, active community to actively engage with and share your content.

A workaround for this problem is to involve influencers in your niche – this way you can activate their communities. Of course, this is a complex topic on its own, but it might be one of your only options if you don’t have an active social following.

In summary, viral marketing is one of the best tools you can use for your startup marketing strategy, but you need to use it intelligently and with caution. Be careful not to over-invest in such a strategy, as the likelihood of going viral is very low. Instead, do it in a lean and consistent manner.


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