5 Cost-effective viral marketing strategies for start-ups

Starting a new business can be time-consuming and often nerve-wracking. It can also be expensive. Coming up with a generous marketing budget can feel impossible. But some degree of marketing is vital for any business, especially for start-ups. This is where viral marketing strategies come into play, enlarging your pool of target customers and saving you money at the same time.

We’ve put together a list of 5 cost-effective viral marketing strategies for start-ups. This blog will first define what viral marketing is, exactly, and then share some of the benefits that it can bring to your start-up.

Then we’ll dive into the strategies: 

What is viral marketing?

Viral marketing

Viral marketing is exactly what it sounds like: advertising campaigns that have become highly popular and are shared widely by those who see them. The best viral marketing is shared by everyone, even people who do not want the products or services being advertised – but by sharing the post, they ensure that the reach is expanded exponentially.

How can viral marketing benefit start-ups?

There are several advantages to having a marketing strategy go viral:

  • Budget-friendly: Usually, advertising is expensive. Cost-effective viral marketing is cheap in comparison as you generally do not have to pay for more than the initial outlay: creating the advert and perhaps disseminating in one or two places. But you tradeoff marketing costs for creativity. Virality runs on creativity. But the nice thing is that if the ad or campaign goes viral, there is no additional expense to be paid. Or, if it is a pay-per-click type of advert, it will be tied to the number of click-throughs that result in a sale, and so linked to the increase in profits. 
  • Massive visibility: Viral ads go, as the name implies, viral. Having an ad seen by hundreds of potential customers will attract the attention of tens and the active interest of a mere handful. Affordable viral marketing, when handled correctly, can bring the product or service to the attention of millions of people.
  • Self-sharing: Almost half the population of the world is on social media – an impossibly huge target audience, but one that will actively participate in sharing content that appeals to them. Having a strong, positive link to a product or service on such a piece of content is perhaps the most cost-effective viral marketing strategy in the world, one that encourages end users to do the work of spreading the ad on behalf of the seller – and doing so without really realizing that that is what they are doing!


Cost effective viral marketing strategies

Coming up with viral marketing strategies for start-up businesses can be tricky – no one can predict which video will “go viral” and sometimes it is simply a matter of the right clip at the right time. However, the following traits all give marketing campaigns their best chance of succeeding, especially if you can make a strong link between the appeal of your content and your brand, so they do not become separated in the minds of the viewers.

Cost-effective viral marketing campaigns, such as these, are an excellent strategy for new and as-yet unproven businesses to follow, keeping costs low while offering all the benefits of an expensive advertising strategy.

1. Create an emotional impact

Adorable animals, feel-good rescue stories, babies behaving in ways that put adults to shame – all of these make viewers feel a strong emotional response, perhaps tearing up. They want to share this feeling with their friends and family, and will do so, even providing their own call to action.

2. Create an inspirational impact

Narratives in which people go above and beyond normal expectations are quick to catch the eye of someone scrolling through a social media feed. When youngsters turn their lives around or when old people finally achieve a long-held ambition, whether it is skydiving or graduating from university at ninety, can make viewers feel inspired and warmly disposed towards other people. Canny advertisers can offer an incentive to the inspirational person, telling their story as part of the advertisement, thereby buying into the goodwill generated by the heart-warming actions.

3. Create an entertainment impact

Narratives that make people smile, laugh or impress them are also highly popular. Jokes, people putting themselves into ridiculous situations, or parodies of prime-time television shows and the latest movies are excellent ways to tap into our desire to be amused or entertained – linking this content with a strong brand presence connects the product with the pleasure felt from engaging with the content.

Other examples of impact content include good-looking people, heart-warming friendships, or delicious-looking food.

4. Create relatability

People must feel connected to the campaign. Being relatable is important to video clips and ads that go viral as people tend to share items that speak to them on some level, ignoring those that seem not to pertain to their own lives.

5. Create interactivity

Interacting with content encourages the user to linger over the content, whether they are clicking quiz answers, finding hidden items, or solving the puzzle. But these must not be too hard – the user should be able to score fairly highly in just a few minutes, so they feel a sense of accomplishment and connect that sense of well-being to the brand. Interactive content is often enjoyable, and those who score well will be very willing to share the quiz or puzzle, so they can pit themselves against their families and friends.

You can also encourage people to participate in a challenge. We saw this back in 2014 with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

This viral campaign was an instant success, and raised $115 million in just eight weeks. Over 17 million people worldwide participated in the challenge, making ALS common knowledge after being a relatively unknown disease before the challenge. 

Sharing is Caring!

Sharing viral content should be very easy once the consumer has watched or engaged with it. In fact, the viewer should be almost tempted into sharing it, with the impression being left that by sharing the content they are doing something good and desirable. The content should ensure that this is subtly encouraged with a friendly call to action towards the end, and links should be clear, easily visible and always working well, with broken links replaced or repaired as soon as the problem arises.

Going viral in a positive way is wonderful for a start-up business, gaining visibility and publicity that is almost priceless. However, be sure that your content is always polite and appropriate: going viral for the wrong reasons can ruin your reputation in mere hours!

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