Lessons From This Year’s Top 3 Viral Marketing Trends

December 13, 2014


Lessons From This Year’s Top 3 Viral Marketing Trends image iStock 000025336923Large 1 200x133.jpg


While there’s no secret formula to creating a marketing campaign that “goes viral,” there are a few keys to making marketing that gets talked about – even if it’s just within your business or industry or among your social media fans. Take look at these top marketing trends from 2014 and the campaigns that took off, along with our tips that you can apply to your own digital marketing.

1. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

According to the ALS Association, it has received $ 115 million in donations since July 29 of this year. And you probably know what drove this phenomenal success — the wildly popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge social media videos that got people everywhere dumping ice on themselves and donating money to this cause.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge traces its roots back to Chris Kennedy, a professional golfer in Florida, who was the first person to record himself dumping ice on himself and donating the funds he raised to the ALS Foundation in honor of a friend battling the disease. He posted his video on Facebook, where his friends and neighbors took the challenge and nominated others on the social media platform to do so. The fundraiser went viral when more people, including athletes, politicians, musicians, actors, and of course everyone else, started to participate. Recently, Tanner Hockensmith, Executive Director at ALS Association Texas Chapter, called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge “the perfect storm of awesomeness.”

The Marketing Takeaway

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge demonstrated three important lessons:

  • People enjoy helping others and participating in something bigger than themselves.
  • Social media has the power to create a sense of belonging to a community.
  • User-generated content, in this case videos shared on Facebook, has phenomenal power to promote a cause.

To create more buzz for your company, look for opportunities to promote a charity your employees and you care about and invite your social media fans to join in, too. Then showcase your charitable activities on Facebook. And if your social media fans attend any of your charitable events or activities, ask them to promote any videos or photos from the event(s) on their own social platforms, too. Remember, the ALS Association didn’t set out to create a viral marketing campaign. It all started with one person who cared about his friend with ALS and used Facebook to promote his fundraising activity.

2. Ellen’s Oscar Selfie

It was the tweet seen and retweeted around the world – more than 3 million times. This past spring at the Oscars, host Ellen DeGeneres’ live tweeted a selfie she took using a Samsung smartphone at the event. She said her goal was to break the current record for most retweets on Twitter, which President Barack Obama held at the time. And by live tweeting her selfie in front of a television audience of more than a billion people, she accomplished her goal.

While there are conflicting reports as to whether or not Samsung was involved in the planning of DeGeneres’ photo and famous tweet, it was nevertheless a social media marketing coup for Samsung. The company enjoyed being at the center of a trending marketing stunt that got huge buzz across the Internet. It’s the kind of exposure that would’ve cost Samsung untold millions of marketing dollars to generate. And yet, all it took was one photo and one tweet.

The Marketing Takeaway

While most of us don’t have a worldwide audience like the Oscars in which to announce our marketing activities, we can take a play from Ellen’s marketing playbook: putting social media trends to work to create company brand awareness. In this case, she used the popularity of selfies and the power of Twitter.

So, how can you use selfies and Twitter in your own marketing? Start by taking photos that reflect the spirit and culture of your company. Your selfies could be of:

  • You and your team out in the field on an important job or attending a special event
  • You and a favorite customer or vendor
  • You and your team inside your business location, especially when there’s a special event like a holiday party

These are just a few examples. The important takeaway is that you shouldn’t shy away from self-promotion on Twitter. Your fans will enjoy seeing you interacting with various facets of your company. Remember to add relevant hashtags when uploading your selfie to Twitter as they will help larger audiences see your photo.

3. #AlexFromTarget

Alex Lee started out as a high school student earning some extra money by working at Target. He had less than 200 Twitter followers. So how did this once unknown teenager become an overnight Internet sensation who gained 751,000 Twitter followers, inspired the hashtag #AlexFromTarget, and met guest show host Ellen DeGeneres?

Lee’s Internet stardom appears to have begun with a teenage girl in Texas who took his photo while he was at work at Target, and shared it with another friend. It’s reported that the photo found its way to the photo-sharing site Tumblr, where a teenager in the United Kingdom with 20,000+ Twitter fans happened to see it. She tweeted the photo of Alex out to her audience and from there, #AlexFromTarget went viral.

The Marketing Takeaway

As with the ALS Association, both Lee and his employer, the Target Corporation, didn’t set out to be at the center of a viral event. But the company still gained worldwide brand exposure and Alex became famous. And much of this is due to the teenaged Twitter user in the U.K. who has 20,000+ fans as well as the power of Target’s already-loyal employees and fans to keep the buzz going.

The lesson learned? Identify influencers within your own company and industry who have a robust following on social media and empower them to share about your business. In addition to building great relationships with ALL of your employees, identify a few who are fans of your company and ask them to participate in employee advocacy initiatives online. But ensure you have a social media policy in place to avoid any legal issues. Also, be sure to build a community with your fans on social sites like Facebook and boost their involvement by staying active and posting compelling content they want to share — such as funny memes, offers and discounts, and trends in your industry.

Have you ever helped a marketing campaign spread online? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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