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Go Viral: 6 Strategies for Viral Exposure and Growth

viral marketing strategiesThe holy grail of marketing is to create a viral marketing campaign that brings exponential exposure to your site or blog – but how do we do it? How do we go viral?

The theory of how to create one is pretty straight-forward, with four required ingredients to creating virality: you’ve got to create epic content, reach a critical mass of initial exposure, ask people to share your content, and make it easy for them to reach a lot of people.

(If you haven’t read my viral content formula post on ThinkTraffic, then click through and read it – in the post I analyze two viral campaigns, and extrapolate a full-blown formula that you can apply to create virality for your site or product.)

But this post isn’t about theory – it’s about practice. You want to know what specific campaigns you can implement, and how to do it.

That’s what you can expect in this post: five viral marketing strategies that are specific, actionable, and implementable, without being cookie-cutter or too generic to apply.

Let’s start with the first idea…

Viral Marketing Campaign Idea #1: Viral Content Contest

This is a contest in which people have to share and comment on a series of posts in order to be eligible to win a prize. We did this when we  officially “launched” Mirasee with our FIRE-PROOF Selling Series, but we can’t take credit – we got the idea from Peter Shallard. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Pick a topic that is in high demand by your readership, and that you have a lot to say about.
  2. Write a series (3-10) of super-high-quality posts about that subject, with a question for the readers at the end.
  3. Find an easy way for people to share – ideally, you can have them tweet about you, and include your #hashtag. This is important, and was a key lesson learned from our launch series.
  4. Pick some truly awesome prizes that your readers would walk through fire to win.
  5. Write an introductory post explaining the contest and the prizes.
  6. Launch the contest; announce it on your blog, and reach out to your networks to ask them to help spread the word.
  7. Thank your network for all of their help.

Viral Marketing Campaign Idea #2: Community Survey

Basically, the idea behind this marketing campaign plan  is to create a survey about what’s happening in your niche, partner with an authority in your industry to host it, and reach out to other bloggers to help promote it, in exchange for access to the results. For a good example of what this might look like, check out Ingrid Abboud’s Guide for Blog Post Schedules.

This is a great idea for which we can’t take credit; it’s the brainchild of Corbett Barr, the genius behind ThinkTraffic. Done properly, this can result in great branding for you, and tons of links to your site and the survey, after which you will have some great content that you can even use as an anchor along with a Pay With A Tweet Giveaway (see the next viral campaign idea).

We won’t spill the beans on how to do it here, but he describes this idea in painstaking detail in his “B-List Breakthrough”, which you can get as part of his free Traffic Toolbox (not an affiliate link, just an endorsement of awesome content). Go get it!

Viral Marketing Campaign Idea #3: Ask New Subscribers to Share

If you’re running a site or blog, then you’ve probably got an option for people to subscribe for updates (and if you don’t, go set one up right now!).

An area of neglected opportunity for most sites is the “thank you” page after visitors have subscribed. Generally, this page will feature a message of thanks and a link to download any special bonuses you had promised them in exchange for signing up.

Consider this example, which is the last line from the confirmation email that I received after signing up for the notification list of Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks Pro:

In the meantime, you’ve been given a unique user ID link to share with your network on Twitter, Facebook, or via email: [TAGGED URL HERE]. You’ll receive a $10 credit for every twenty of your friends that sign up by clicking on the link you provide them.

This is brilliantly done, and can serve as a multiplier of whatever sign-ups you are already receiving. This idea takes a bit more work to implement, but it’s completely worth it:

If you don’t already have a subscription option, then set one up using a service like AWeber, and create a free bonus that you can give people in exchange for their email address. This can’t just be any old thing that you’ve thrown together – invest the time in creating something that people will actually want.

  1. Think about what action you would like people to take once they have signed up to help you spread the word. Try to settle on just one action that you want them to take.
  2. Choose an incentive that you can offer people to do it. It can be in the form of another bonus, or a credit towards your program, as in Gini’s case with Spin Sucks Pro, but it can also just be in the form of goodwill (“if you share this with a friend, they’ll appreciate it, and so will I”).
  3. Think about how you will track whether this is working – it can be as complex as an affiliate offer like Gini’s, or as simple as having a bit.ly link so that you can track the number of clicks that you get relative to sign-ups.
  4. Add your message to the subscription “thank you” page, and integrate whatever sharing or tracking technologies you need and have chosen.

Viral Marketing Campaign Idea #4: Pay with a Tweet Giveaway

The idea here is to create a “free” giveaway to compliment a really good piece of anchor content, that users can get by paying with a tweet. We did this with our Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does! – there was a summary handout that readers could get by paying with a tweet. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pick a topic that is in high demand by your readership.
  2. Write a truly awesome post about it – think about what you would put in a manifesto or e-book, and turn it into a mammoth blog post instead.
  3. Create a shortened URL to the post with bit.ly or another service. Don’t leave it as a jumble of letters and numbers – change it to something memorable, like bit.ly/GrowBigSteps.
  4. Create a complimentary bonus that goes with the post, and make sure that the bonus includes a reference to the shortened URL that you just created. The bonus can be a PDF handout or worksheet, an e-book, a video, audio, etc. – just make sure it’s good enough for people to really, really want it!
  5. Sign with a free service like Pay With A Tweet or Cloud:flood to give people access to the bonus once they’ve tweeted or otherwise shared the post, and integrate the link into your anchor post.
  6. When the post goes live, reach out to your networks and ask them to help spread the word.
  7. Thank your network for all of their help in spreading the word.

Viral Marketing Campaign Idea #5: E-Book of Expert Opinions

The idea with this campaign is to collaborate with a lot of other bloggers to create an e-book that your audience would value, which the other bloggers will then help you to promote.

You can do this by asking bloggers to write a short essay about a subject of interest to your readers, and then collect these essays into an e-book that you then give away to your readers (you can combine them with the Pay With a Tweet idea to get even more mileage).

Since you’re featuring their words of wisdom, the contributors are going to want to help you spread the word, giving you access to a much bigger megaphone than you might otherwise have access to. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Make a list of medium-sized blogs whose audience would be interested in your content. These blogs should be big enough to have a sizeable audience, but not so big that they’re likely inundated with requests. As a rule of thumb, think about Alexa rankings in the 50,000-100,000 range.
  2. Think about a question that your audience, and their audience, would be really eager to have answered. Take your time with this one – if the question isn’t good, then the end product won’t be, either.
  3. Cultivate a relationship with the bigger bloggers on the list. For an effective way to do this, read the Borrow Some Authority section of Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does! (you could get some extra mileage out of guest posting for them, too!).
  4. Reach out to the bigger bloggers that you have the best relationship with, and explain that you are looking to create an e-book of expert opinions, answering a question that is very important to your shared audience, and that you would like them to participate.
  5. Once you have secured some bigger names to participate, reach out to the rest of your list, mentioning that the bigger names are already onboard. Set clear parameters in terms of what you’re looking for in their submission, and mention a due date for their essay response.
  6. Assemble all of the submissions into an e-book – invest in some nice design and layout work.
  7. Write an awesome blog post to pique interest, and make sure to give credit to all of the contributors. Give free access to the e-book at the end, and integrate a Pay With a Tweet functionality to get extra mileage.
  8. Tell all of the contributors about the launch date, and ask them to help you promote the post and e-book. Reach out to your network and ask for their help as well.
  9. Thank your network and the contributors for all of their help with the campaign.

BONUS Viral Marketing Campaign Idea #6: Viral Video!

Viral videos are a particularly sexy sub-set of viral marketing campaign ideas; they’re visual and in your face, which makes them easy for us to remember. And when they spread, boy, they really spread – we’re talking hundreds of thousands, or even millions of views!

Update! This post was written back in 2011. Today, there are a lot more ways to make your content viral. So, we’ve added a few more — the updated 2015 list of 6 MORE ways to go viral! Join our community to get the list — along with lots of other free resources! 

Oh, one more thing – please leave a comment! Have you tried any of these viral marketing campaign ideas? Do you have an idea that isn’t listed here that you can share with us?

 

About Danny Iny

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the CEO and founder of Mirasee, host of the Business Reimagined podcast, and best-selling author of multiple books including Engagement from Scratch!, The Audience Revolution, and Teach and Grow Rich.

50 thoughts on “Go Viral: 6 Strategies for Viral Exposure and Growth

  1. Nicely done here, Danny! I’ve tried several of these ideas and they’ve worked well for me. My recent favorite is the pay with a tweet one. I did that a month or two back and loved the results.

    I really like the idea of asking new subscribers to share. That’s pretty awesome, and something I’ll for sure have to look into in the near future.

    • Yup, we haven’t really done that one either, but it’s on our list of things to do soon. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and taking a look, Tristan, I appreciate it!

    • Re: asking new subs to share strategy: I just had this happen to me as a new user of a lawn care service that has the best digital marketing strategy I’ve seen in any kind of service like that.

      After receiving their lawn service, which was also thorough and professional, they sent an auto responder to ask for a review, using three large emoticon faces as the hook. I clicked on the happy one, and left a comment in the box provided.

      Right after that, they sent me another email, this time thanking me for the kind review–then in a humble, playful way, they asked if I would leave a review for them at Yelp or Google+. Obviously the service has to line up with the request for reviews/shares, but I think it’s a terrific idea for viral marketing.

  2. Thanks for the great step by step instructions. I don’t think you could have made it any clearer. Now it’s just a matter of implementation. Thanks again!

  3. This is a nice list. I’ve started out about 2 months ago, and I have some content now, and a core little group of readers, 20-40 per day. Not bad yet, but I’m ready to pull the trigger on expanding the brand. These suggestions are great, very high value. I’m going to bookmark this post and subscribe. Thanks!

    • 20-40 steady daily readers after 2 months is great work – congratulations! Have you tried to build traffic with guest posting on other sites? It might be more appropriate to your current stage of growth – I wrote about this in our Why Guru Strategies DON’T WORK… and What Does! post (top of the popular posts page) – I’d love to hear what you think of it. 🙂

  4. Hey Danny,

    This post is an excellent. Great tips/examples of viral marketing campaigns. The thing I love about these is that even though I don’t have a biz blog, I can still use all of these pointer with my personal blog to stimulate growth.
    Nice PDF by the way. (the bitly.getviral link 404’d, as an fyi).

    I haven’t tried any of these campaigns myself – but I feel like I certainly should. Surely couldn’t harm a thing!

    Thanks for the info Danny!I love your high value posts.

    • Thank you, Jk – and yes, these should work with any blog, or any site for that matter.

      Thanks for the heads-up about the link – fixed the PDF (the link should have been bit.ly/LetsGetViral). 🙂

  5. As someone who likes to pick things apart to understand them, I really appreciate this post. There are tons of these kind of posts on the net, but none I’ve seen so far have this kind of definitive detail.

    You really do a good job of clearly laying out exactly what’s necessary to get results.

  6. As someone who likes to pick things apart to understand them, I really appreciate this post. There are tons of these kind of posts on the net, but none I’ve seen so far have this kind of definitive detail.

    You really do a good job of clearly laying out exactly what’s necessary to get results.

    • Thanks, Ryan. I know how much you like to pick things apart to understand them, so that really means a lot coming from you. 🙂

      So… what viral strategy are you going to try first? 😉

  7. Do you find the Pay with a Tweet option is more valuable than getting people on your mailing list? I can see the viral potential of it, but I’ve been thinking about the long-term value. Of course, if you can get someone with a million followers to want your free item, then I guess that would be spectacular!

    • I think it depends on which phase of growth the blog is in; further down the line, the focus will shift more towards conversions, but right now we’re still working on building awareness. I wrote a post about these stages of growth (as I see them) called Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does! – it’s at the top of our popular posts, and I’d love to hear your feedback on it. 🙂

  8. Going viral really isn’t the easiest thing to do, yet something everyone hopes happens at least once. Thanks for these tips, as they make it a little more likely that it’ll ever happen!

    • You’re right, Bjorn, it is rare – but I think it helps to see virality as a spectrum, rather than a binary thing; it isn’t that something either goes completely viral or not at all, but rather I see virality as a measure of how much your content gets shared and spread. The objective is to get all of your content to be more viral, and eventually, you’ll hit that home run. 🙂

  9. Danny, I come here straight from The Sales Lion, and I find you’ve also guest posted at ThinkTraffic! You’re a busy man Danny, especially with ProBlogger coming up on Sunday 😉

    Great bunch of tips here, I think whenever you say “viral” to someone who knows what the word means, their eyes immediately glaze over and they start dreaming about their projects ‘going viral’, raking in untold amounts of success. In other words, people like ‘viral’, so it’s great that you’ve listed not one, not two, but SIX ideas for a viral marketing campaign!

    Post retweeted. The people love you Danny 🙂

  10. These are really a sure hit viral marketing campaign! I liked it coz the tips are realistic and applicable. but i never tried yet the ebook and video marketing, as i see it these two are also important.

    I bookmarked your page as this would me a lot in Best SEO endeavors. Thank you.

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  12. Hi Danny
    Came over from The Sales Lion via your guest post – congratulations on that.

    Going viral, will my bandwidth take it? LOL
    Thanks for the ideas 5+1, always good to have ideas and strategies to look at.
    Cheers Danny

  13. Thanks, Danny, for the boost of confidence! I’m not sure Spin Sucks Pro went viral. We have an extremely engaged community, but still only 40 or so tweets from the landing page. While we see the teaser campaign as a success, it’s because of a variety of things, including the community we’ve spent the past three years building. Now, if I could figure out how to blend Spin Sucks Pro, perhaps THAT would go viral!

    • I think virality is more of a spectrum than a binary state; it’s all about getting things shared and spread more than less, and in that sense, I think you did a really good job.

      Yeah, if you could figure out how to blend it, that would be easier, but I guess not everything can blend after all! 😀

  14. Danny, aloha. Enjoyed your comments and suggestions. Brankica of Live-Your-Love first introduced me to paywithatweet which I think is a terrific idea. As a reader, I always appreciate receiving ebooks by assorted experts.

    With the great resources on this page, I have bookmarked it for easy reference and implementation. Thx so much. Aloha. Janet

    • Hey Janet, it’s great to see you again, and I’m glad the post was helpful. Have you ever tried any of these ideas yourself? How did they work out for you?

  15. HI Danny,

    Can’t say I have used nay of these strategies but I have certainly bookmarked this page and shared to get the info on videos. Thank you. I’ve seen pay with a tweet around a bit and always thought it a great idea.

    ~Marcus

  16. Those are great strategies!! I tweeted and will be studying the viral video thing because I am just beginning to explore the use of video. So hopefully, I haven’t made too many mistakes yet :).

  17. Hi Danny,

    Interesting post and these are awesome tips for viral exposure. I’ve great success with blogging contests and i like the idea of pay with a tweet.

    Another great idea would be doing blog commenting or guest posting. Both are great strategies to get viral Exposure. I’ve done many guest posts at ProBlogger, MaxBlogPress, SB etc and got awesome exposure through those posts.

    These days I’m focusing more on social media networks like Twitter, Facebook & Digg for viral Exposure.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome post.

    H
    ave a great day.

    ~Dev

    • Hi Devesh, thanks for your comment. I’m a big fan of guest posting and blog commenting, but I’m not sure if that’s a strategy that is likely to really go viral… what do you think?

  18. Hi Danny,

    These are great ideas for getting viral exposure of your content, many of which I hadn’t thought of.

    I am a great believer in surveys and coming to understand your readers or your prospects. I use surveys quite often in exchange for a freebie of some sort, my “ethical bride” if you will. Surveys always end up providing information that helps me down the road.

    I like the idea of getting several people together to promote your survey, in exchange for sharing the results. Of course, the people you ask would need to benefit from the results in some way. This is an awesome idea. Next time I do a survey I’ll give it a whirl!

    Thanks for the information,

    Bob

    • Thanks, Dr. Clarke, I’m glad you liked the idea. You should really check out Corbett’s guide on how to do this – it’s at the level that you often don’t even see when you pay for something, and he’s giving it away for free. 🙂

  19. Hi Danny,

    Well, I (and I know a lot of people will) thank you for this post. You shared these great viral marketing tips in just one tremendous post! I personally would like to explore #2,#3, and #4. And o f course, I am very much interested with the Viral Video bonus. Thanks again Danny for putting this together!

    – Rowena

  20. Hi Danny,

    Loads of good ideas in this post. Every one of them should generate a lot of exposure for anyone using these techniques. Thanks for the list.

    Lou Barba

  21. Hi Danny, 

    As a person who is working on the tool for running swift viral promotions (http://invitebox.com) I just want to confirm that all techniques you mentioned can be very effective almost for any kind of websites. Our early adopters ran successful viral campaigns using similar ideas for their blogs, e-commerce, saas etc. 

    If some of your readers are interested in trying the ideas you have mentioned in practice here is an invite code for the first 20 comers “FIREPOLE”. 

    Thank you for the nice article,
    Dmitry

    • Hi Dmitry, thanks for sharing that with us. I don’t have time to look at a new product right now, but if you can send me a link to a quick overview or demo video, I’d be happy to take a look – send it to danny (at) firepolemarketing (dot) com. 🙂

  22. Hi Danny,

    This is a relatively old post, so it’s nice to see how you’ve used the ideas since. The only one I don’t remember seeing here at Firepole Marketing is the survey. Have you used it someplace else, or have I just missed it here? Thanks for the ideas 🙂

  23. Great ideas, thank you.

    I am looking forward to see results- I read it last night and today will start with one of them.
    Funny for years I had no idea how to share knowledge- now I am exploded with it.

    Danny the only thing I would add is to add recommendations of readers on these places that my info is there. I am selling actual products on several platforms and the impact of other buyer recommendations are amazing.

  24. I like the ebook campaign the best. I have seen this type of camping being successful in multiple industries. Thanks for setting up a solid blueprint that I can follow. Very much appreciated.

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  26. Hello,

    Its really great to read Danny’s post and I guess tactics for viral marketing is kinda unique strategies which I never tried.

    Overall, yes, you can definitely earn from your blogs once you know the way about it all, and there are many who are, so it does work. 🙂

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