We rarely see the terms “viral marketing” and “B2B” in the same sentence. Whenever we think of viral marketing, we almost always think of B2C products — consumer goods, electronics, vehicles — that could benefit from a touch of humor or notoriety. Many B2B companies fear that producing viral videos could make them appear desperate for attention.
However, the line between buyers and producers has become blurred these days. B2B businesses are no longer confined to stuffy, megalithic corporations where decisions are made in the boardroom. Start-ups and small businesses also need B2B products to operate and generate revenue. By using viral content marketing, you can appeal to a younger B2B audience and expand your business.
Understanding The Basics of Viral Marketing
Many people think of viral content as something that appears on their social feeds seemingly out of nowhere. B2B viral marketing is the result of a calculated effort designed to get users to share your content for you, as opposed to traditional marketing, where you have to buy airtime or space to promote your product.
While going viral will guarantee exposure for your product or service, not all campaigns succeed in gaining viral status. You cannot just produce something funny and expect it to go viral right away. Instead, you need to focus on what will make people want to share the content. Follow this process for the best chance of producing content that could go viral.
1. Identify Trending Topics
Most viral campaigns succeed because they are built around something that people are already talking about. In other words, their creators are aware of trending topics and are not afraid to leverage that knowledge to produce relatable content.
Adobe’s “Click, Baby, Click” campaign resonated with a lot of businesses because it appealed to their need for more accurate analytics. Companies started looking more closely at their sales and marketing numbers around the time the ad was released (2013), and Adobe’s ad told them about the importance of tracking business performance the right way.
2. Review Successful Campaigns
Like in traditional marketing, it’s important for viral marketers to be aware of successful campaigns — and what makes them work. At the same time, you also need to know what doesn’t work.
Stock video company Dissolve, for example, crafted a short film around the poem “This is a Generic Brand Video.” The short film, which consists of a comprehensive list of brand video cliches, was made entirely out of videos in Dissolve’s video library. It became a viral hit, scoring more than 2.7 million views on YouTube and getting coverage from major news organizations.
3. Identify The Most Effective Channels
If you want your content to get noticed, you need to identify the right channels for it. Here are some of the most effective marketing channels for B2B businesses:
- LinkedIn: This is the platform for B2B businesses, whether they want to recruit new talent, promote a new product or flex their thought leadership. The level of discourse is also a bit different from what you’ll typically see on Facebook or Twitter because the audience is mainly professionals and business owners.
- Facebook: Most brands put Facebook at the center of their social media marketing strategy. With close to 3 billion users, Facebook is the social network with the widest reach.
- Twitter: While Twitter doesn’t have the sheer power and reach of Facebook, it is still a very effective marketing channel. It encourages conversations between brands and their clients through replies and retweets.
- YouTube: While most people go to YouTube to watch cat videos or cooking lessons, it is also a good platform for promoting your B2B brand. For example, posting a funny instructional video on YouTube could help increase visits to your website.
While posting your content on high-traffic channels can maximize your brand’s exposure, it doesn’t automatically result in more clicks. Enrolling in social media training sessions can help you identify the most effective channels in your industry and location.
4. Decide What to Do With the Traffic
Ultimately, the goal of your viral marketing is to get users to click through to your site. Let’s say your video goes viral, and your site sees a spike in traffic. What now?
Attracting traffic to your site is one thing. Keeping those visitors on your site is another. When you see a sudden increase in traffic, it’s either because a very reliable site linked back to you or people find value in it.
The worst thing you can do as you create a viral campaign is not preparing your website for visitors. Here are a few things you can do to help your site accommodate additional traffic from your viral content:
- Minimize your code: If you know how to code, take a look at your site’s HTML code and reduce the number of HTTP requests that lead nowhere. You may also combine all your scripts into just one file.
- Fix your web design: If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, your visitors might not stay for long. Implementing a responsive design on your site will help it accommodate smartphone and tablet users.
- Reduce the size of your images: While it’s nice to have the highest-resolution images available, you may crop them so that they only show your product. This reduces page loading time.
- Tighten your security: Your site’s newfound fame can turn into a chance for hackers to do significant damage. To avoid this, install SSL, update your software as needed and tighten your access control.
Preparing your site for an influx of traffic might be expensive, but you’ll thank yourself later.
5. Set Your KPIs
Many marketers measure the success of a viral campaign through the amount of engagement or click-throughs a piece of content generates. Others believe in tracking all possible metrics available. I recommend taking the middle ground and measuring the most relevant data for your campaign. That could include:
- Impressions: This measures how many times your post showed up in someone’s feed
- Audience growth: This measures how fast your follower count is growing
- Share of voice: This tracks how often your brand is mentioned compared to the competition
- Applause rate: This consists of likes and favorites divided by the number of your followers
- Amplification rate: This measures how effective your campaign is at reaching new audiences
- Conversion rate: Once someone clicks through to your page, you still need to get them to click on your call-to-action link, whether it’s to buy a product or subscribe to your mailing list. Your conversion rate measures how effective your campaign is in encouraging people to do what you want them to do
- Bounce rate: This measures how effective your site is with retaining traffic. A low bounce rate indicates that the site is interesting enough for visitors to stay for some time
- Cost per click: If you boost your ad campaign, you will need to see how far your marketing dollars go. This will indicate whether you’re spending your money wisely or just throwing it away
Creating a set of KPIs will give you an idea of what you want your campaign to achieve and how you’ll measure your success.
6. Post Content Regularly
Some marketers think that one viral campaign is enough to push a B2B website over the top. However, this isn’t the case. Business owners and executives are bombarded with B2B sales pitches all the time. If you fail to capitalize on your initial viral momentum, all of your previous efforts will just be wasted.
Creating an editorial calendar and posting content regularly will ensure that you keep your audience aware of your brand long enough to get them to click through to your site. It reminds your viewers that you’re still doing business and are still available to answer their questions about your product.
7. Run PPC Ads to Promote Trending Content
Every social media channel has a certain amount of organic reach. That organic reach represents the amount of interest that a piece generates, often in the form of reactions or view time, with your audience. Viral content that has, by definition, a high organic reach.
Social media companies place restrictions on the organic reach of content. That’s understandable. After all, platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn charge advertisers for user impressions. They don’t want to give those user impressions away for free, which is why most social platforms have restricted organic reach over time. The graph below drawing data about social reach on Facebook from 2017–2018 shows this trend nicely.
Source: Social Bakers
To increase the chance of your content going viral, you need to identify your trending content quickly. You can then use paid ads to promote your content to a wider audience.
Create a lookalike audience using demographic information of people who engaged with your content. You can then run paid ads targeting this demographic. If your content has that viral factor, your paid ads can significantly boost your content’s organic reach. That boost can be the difference between a piece of trending content and a piece of viral content.
8. Run Multi-Channel Marketing Campaigns
We all know that story about putting all your eggs in one basket. While running a campaign on just one might be cheaper, it’s also a lot riskier. For example, if your Facebook viral campaign gets reported and you’re forced to take it off the platform, all your hard work will just go to waste.
Running a multi-channel marketing campaign can expand your brand’s reach beyond its traditional audience and ensures that it is visible everywhere. It also protects your content from being repurposed by other users to attract traffic to their sites. Maintaining a presence on different platforms gives your audience more ways to engage with your brand and find out more about your products.
We’re not saying that you should create a branded TikTok account right away — although I admit we still haven’t scratched the surface of TikTok’s potential as a marketing platform. Posting on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn will allow you to reach different audiences and demographics through the platforms where they are most at home.
While viral marketing isn’t usually associated with B2B businesses, many B2B companies have enjoyed a surge in popularity and revenue thanks to viral content. There’s no reason your own business can’t use viral video to generate interest, either.
However, a viral video isn’t just the result of luck. Just because a piece of content is funny doesn’t guarantee that it will go viral right away. Most viral campaigns result from processes that involve trend research, competitor analysis, goal-setting and content scheduling. You also need to prepare your site for the additional traffic that your content is expected to generate.
Chris Norton, Founder of insight-led PR agency Prohibition, former University lecturer, author of “Share This Too” and listed in the UK's top 10 PR and social media bloggers.