Viral marketing and the power of social media campaigns

Posted: 2 May 2016
We live in a world that is intricately inter-connected online; a society in which social media allows consumers to voice their concerns and opinions on a global platform and in real time. With a few words and a hashtag, a movement can sky rocket from obscurity to international news in a day.

The question is: how can businesses use this new platform to their advantage?

  1. Communicate with your customers.

Unfortunately, even the best service teams sometimes fail to please a customer, and with the rise of social media, it is easier than ever for a dissatisfied customer to share their experiences with others.

Before social media became such a huge platform, a customer with a bad experience would tell a few close friends, perhaps write a letter if they were really annoyed. Now, your displeased customer has a captive audience of a few hundred online friends to share their bad experience with. That’s a lot of bad press from one bad experience!

A recent study by Zendesk found that nearly half of their respondents would share their bad experience online. Not only this, but 88% of people are influenced by reviews they read online. As the population ages and consumers become more social media savvy (i.e. as Milennials start to dominate the consumer base), these stats are only set to rise.

So: how can you make this work for your company?

Give your customers a voice.

In a world of automated phone systems and bulk texts, give your customers a real service experience. Encourage them to express their opinions – not to the wider internet, where you won’t be privy to them, but to your customer service team. Using social media as a platform with which to engage with your customers, to hear and respond to their opinions and actively connect with them gives your company an edge in service recovery.

The best part? These online service recovery warriors can operate remotely from anywhere, with the help of the Cloud.

  1. Use social media to gather information for free.

Social media is a digital goldmine of customer information just waiting to be unearthed. A buzzing, global community of active consumers who are bursting to share their opinions on your marketing, services, logo…anything and everything.

All you have to do is ask.

Gone are the days of cold-calling and unfilled opinion survey forms- social media’s thriving prod-user community will happily tell you what they’re thinking. Creating a survey on Facebook, for example, is simple and free. It’s an option labeled ‘create a poll question’. So, all you have to do is release a poll to your online community of consumers, and let the free online focus-group army do the rest.

  1. Let the social media community do your advertising for you.

By now, you should be familiar with the social phenomenon that is the hashtag. From its humble origins as an abbreviation for the word ‘number’ and a musical sharp, to its current position as the driving force between the spread of digital movements and discourse, this little symbol has come a long way. And it holds a lot of power.

Social media provides companies with a unique opportunity to have their customers – and even those with no interest in the company at all – to do their marketing for them. Create a sharable campaign, and the online community will spread it for you, with no charge.

Of course, finding out what it is exactly that makes a video or advertising message ‘viral’ is easier said than done, but if you can get the mix right, the results are undeniable.

One well-known example of this is Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. One of the viral videos part of this campaign, known as ‘Real Beauty Sketches’, received over 114 million views in the month it was released. That was three years ago now, and the same clip is still shown everywhere, from Facebook news feeds to classrooms across Australia as part of discussions about self-esteem.

While Dove did pay to have this advertisement aired on TV, most of the traffic came from people on the internet sharing the video with each other.

Jason Ankeny’s article in The Entrepreneur explores the theory of viral marketing, as explained by Jonah Berger in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On:

“Berger has spent years investigating the mechanics behind virality, identifying six key drivers under the acronym STEPPS. They are Social Currency (e.g., sharing things that make people look good), Triggers (acknowledging that we talk about things that are top-of-mind), Emotion, Public (imitating what we see others do), Practical Value (news people can use) and Stories (information passed along under the guise of idle chitchat).”

With the knowledge of why people share online content, and how they do so, businesses can use the online community and social media to spread their advertising messages globally, and achieve exposure at a level not seen before the digital age.