Most people think they understand how “viral” marketing works, and as such they believe they’re immune to it…
Here’s what most people think happens… A company or firm contacts a few “influencers”, who are each connected to many, many people, literally even millions of people in some cases, be they followers, fans, viewers, subscribers or whatever. That way a huge number of people hear about their product or service – profit!
As marketing goes, it works, but that’s not actually viral. It’s easy to see, and so easy it’s to resist. Heck, it can be so obvious that it becomes distasteful, and actually puts you off the product or influencer!
A recent example for me was a lady on Youtube pushing a certain brand of electrolyte powder, who with a perfectly straight face claimed she “never leaves the house without at least one pack.”
No. I don’t believe her, you don’t believe her, nobody believes her, and when you then see other Youtubers in the same diet space pimping the same, relatively new brand of electrolyte powder…? Eew!
The way viral marketing really works is not just a top-down pyramid of some super-influencer, or “one to many”. Instead it really works by being “many to many”, due to interconnectivity, and it usually starts small.
The way a true viral outbreak tends to occur can be when a number of people in a smaller community talk about it among themselves, such as a forum, a sub-reddit, even the comments under a popular video. This feels much more authentic, subjects those in the small group to the same message and brand repeatedly (very important), and THEN that groups infects other groups, with their genuine enthusiasm.
A big part of how this works is people presume a big corporation wouldn’t waste its time on such tiny forums or spaces, but here’s the sneaky secret – us marketing types know how this works, so we’ll bombard such a small space!
We’ll enter with “natural’ recommendations, talk about it a lot, or even send in AI bots to do so!
Next time you see something that is or might be viral, and feel the urge to buy because it’s being pushed with real enthusiasm, ask yourself if you’re the victim of viral marketing?
Of course some things naturally do go viral by themselves, but even then, stop and think before you follow the crowd.
“It’s gone viral” is not a reason to buy something, to associate your identity with it or to do anything else.