Viral marketing – When the target group actively participates in your advertising campaign

You design a campaign, invest some time and money at the beginning and then publish it on the preferred channel. Then it spreads incredibly fast and almost by itself – more and more people share it in social networks, more and more people talk about it. The campaign goes viral. In times of the Internet and social media, viral marketing is a topic that arouses enormous fascination and is sought after by many marketing managers. Therefore, this week we want to take a closer look at this phenomenon, explain it and explain the advantages and disadvantages.

What is Viral Marketing?

One speaks of viral marketing when the message of a marketing campaign spreads rapidly through sharing in social networks and media. The special feature here is that the spreading is not primarily done by the company, but by its target group. Due to the great role that social media play in this context, viral marketing is often placed in the field of social media marketing.

Viral marketing advertising content is often particularly emotional, entertaining or stressful content in which the brand or product only plays a secondary role. Since the content is not too promotional, it is particularly popular and people voluntarily become the advertising medium.

Often the aspect of interactivity is also used in viral marketing, which allows the target group to actively participate in shaping a product. McDonald’s, for example, has already called on customers several times to create their own burgers. Since this is a competition in which the burger with the most likes is actually sold in the stores at the end, the campaign is divided accordingly often and achieves viral character.

Digital natives are particularly suitable as a target group, as they are active on the Internet and especially on social networks and are particularly well connected. explains the optimal target group for viral marketing, the picture shows a laptop and social media networking

The dissemination process in viral marketing

The dissemination of viral content starts with so-called seeding, which is often based on a strategy. Seeding is the initial seeding of the content, over which the advertiser has influence. For this purpose, a seeding source, i.e. a relevant channel, is chosen (e.g. the own blog, YouTube channel, Instagram account etc.) and the content is posted here. The actual dissemination process then follows the snowball principle, i.e. each individual can share content with several people. One person starts and shares something with 3 friends, they each share it again with 3 others etc. This way a large number of people and a viral character can be reached.

Especially at the beginning of the process, so-called multipliers should be used to increase the awareness of the relevant target group and to push the distribution more. Such multipliers are, for example, influencers who can share the advertising messages on their own networks. In most cases, influencers enjoy strong trust from their followers and are particularly authentic, which supports the positive impact of the advertising content.

Distribution channels in viral marketing:

  • Social networks (like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.)
  • Blogs and forums
  • Messenger
  • E-mail
  • Word of mouth


The advantages & disadvantages of viral marketing

Having already mentioned some positive as well as negative aspects of viral marketing, we will summarize them again for you in the following:


  • The financial expenditure in viral marketing is (compared to the success) rather minimal. The advertiser only has to provide the impetus, the actual distribution of the content is then carried out by individual users.
  • Videos and blog posts can still be clicked even after years and thus have a lasting value for the company.
  • Often the advertising messages are better accepted because they are not directly shared by the company and therefore more authentic
  • Sharing increases the number of valuable backlinks (and followers).



  • The exact planning of a viral marketing campaign is not possible. The distribution of the contents is not in the hands of the company and therefore a campaign can remain unsuccessful despite a good concept.
  • The speed of distribution is limited, since no decisive influence can be exerted by the company on this either.
  • It is not certain that the contents will work. If the campaign triggers rather negative emotions than the planned positive ones, image damage can



Many people who work in marketing dream of launching a viral campaign one day. But often this does not work as planned. Although the distribution of content by the target group offers many advantages, it also involves many uncertainties and makes the precise control of such a campaign virtually impossible. If you succeed and an advertising message goes viral, you can often be sure of increasing awareness and also increasing sales.