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Pros and Cons of Viral Marketing for Startups

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Viral marketing has been the holy grail of digital marketing for both startups and large companies for the past decade. It has an amazing return on investment potential, which makes it a very attractive strategy.

Still, achieving virality is very difficult, which makes it very difficult to plan. While it can deliver amazing results, your viral marketing strategy is much more likely to fall flat on its face.

Taking big risks is probably not a strange concept for a startup founder. But if you plan to rely on viral marketing, it’s a good idea to do it intelligently. This article should help you get off to a good start.

What is viral marketing and how do you achieve it?

Viral marketing is essentially the best-case scenario for most digital content marketing strategies† Thanks to the rise of social media, any digital content has the potential to go viral. Of course, some pieces of content have a much higher chance of doing this.

There are several tactics you can use to increase the likelihood of your content going viral. One thing is to encourage re-sharing – for example, you can run content with a giveaway asking people to share and tag their friends to participate in the giveaway. Such ‘stock’ incentives are the simplest strategy to start a positive spiral.

Last but not least, keep in mind that people are less likely to share blatant promotional content, which means that if you want to trigger virality for such content, you need to come up with very strong incentives to re-share.

Another tactic might be to bet on humor in your content to increase the chances of people sharing it.

Benefits of Viral Marketing for Startups

The biggest advantage of viral marketing for startups is the possibility of a disproportionately high return on investment. This is important because as a startup startup you don’t have a lot of resources that you can spend on promotion. As a result, traditional pay-per-click or other capital-intensive promotion strategies may be out of reach for you.

In addition, the success or failure of your viral marketing promotion efforts can provide you with important information about the attractiveness of your offering or brand.

If the results of your campaigns differ significantly from your expectations (in both directions), it may be worth stopping and analyzing the reason for the results. This analysis can give you valuable insights into your target market that you can use in your search for product-market fit.

Disadvantages of Viral Marketing for Startups

The main drawback of viral marketing is that it is highly unreliable. Having it as your only plan is a bad idea because most of your viral attempts just wouldn’t yield the results you’re hoping for.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort, but it’s good to weave virality efforts into a more consistent content marketing strategy.

For example, let’s say your main content marketing strategy revolves around LinkedIn. You are actively involved in the platform and regularly produce informative content once a week. To weave virality into this content strategy, try creating a funny niche-specific meme every other week. This way, only a fifth of your total marketing effort would depend on virality. If you’re not lucky, you have a plan B. But if you win gold, the users who come to your profile because of the viral funny meme have a higher chance of staying and converting because of the regular informative content.

Another downside of viral marketing is that fire requires kindling. In other words, it’s much easier to go viral when you have a large, active community to actively engage with and share your content.

One solution to this problem is to involve influencers in your niche – this way you can activate their communities. This is of course a complex topic in itself, but it can be one of your only options if you don’t have an active social following.

In summary, viral marketing is one of the best tools you can use for your start marketing strategy, but you have to use it intelligently and with caution. Be careful not to invest too much in such a strategy as the chances of going viral are very slim. Instead, do it in a lean and consistent way.

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