Viral marketing or viral advertising is a business strategy that uses existing social networks to promote a product mainly on various social media platforms. Its name refers to how consumers spread information about a product with other people, much in the same way that a virus spreads from one person to another.

When Hotmail first began, they decided that the best way to entice new customers would be to reach the friends, family and colleagues of each user they had. So, in the footer of each and every email that was sent from a Hotmail account, the Hotmail team placed a link that read something like this: “Want a free email account? Sign-up for Hotmail today!” And yes, believe it or not, this strategy went, as we know call it, viral. Hundreds of thousands of users hurriedly signed up for their free email accounts and the rest is history.

Successful viral videos

Think about the popular videos you’ve seen lately. No, not the one about the fox. Think about advertisements you’ve seen online lately. If you’ve watched any YouTube videos in the past month, then you are most likely aware of the product, Poo~Pourri. If not, take a look at their “Girls Don’t Poop” commercial.

Whether you’re impressed by the commercial or not; As of this post, it stands at number 4 of The Top Viral Video Ad Campaigns of 2013. What makes the ad even more impressive is that it was a skippable commercial on YouTube and users decided not to skip it.

If you aren’t familiar with the advertisements on YouTube, let me enlighten you; YouTube is slowly trying to be more like cable TV by forcing users to watch commercials before watching what they came to the internet to see. Typically, you’re forced to watch 5 seconds of an ad and then YouTube blessedly allows you the option of skipping the rest.  But within those first 5 seconds, the Poo-Pourri ad draws you in with the irony of a sophisticated young woman sitting on a toilet talking about the “motherload” she just dropped. Even if you’re over the age of 12, you have to admit it’s funny.

Taking the rank of #2 is this ad for GoPro. This commercial is pretty much the opposite of the Poo~Pourri commercial. There’s nothing funny about this ad. You just witnessed a fireman discovering a kitten, taking it outside, and putting an oxygen mask on its face. The video fills you with warm and fuzzies and restores your faith in humanity.

It’s worth noting that this footage was not shot with a commercial in mind. The original video of the firefighter was a viral video itself before GoPro turned it into a commercial. That’s mostly because the internet absolutely loves cats and kittens and can’t help but share harrowing tales of kitten-saving. GoPro recognized a good story when they saw it and it just so happens that it was captured using a GoPro.

Viral Marketing Requires Strategy

Viral marketing is a sales technique that involves organic or word-of-mouth information about a product or service to spread at an ever-increasing rate. The internet and the advent of social media have greatly increased the number of viral messages in the form of memes, shares, likes, and forwards.