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30 October 2019 by Danielle Brill

Marketing Tips We Can Take from 4 Surprising Viral Sensations

As a business owner, “going viral” probably features quite high on your marketing wish list. We all want to share content that resonates with our followers, and that spreads like wildfire across social media. Unfortunately, social virality isn’t something that comes easy. Still, the following four viral sensations have proven that it can occur at any time, and in the most unexpected of ways. We might not be the next viral sensation, but we can take some valuable pointers from those who were.

Tip #1: Engage with your customers online

Every interaction with your customers is a moment of opportunity. How you respond, and whether or not you choose to do so, can have far-reaching consequences for your brand. Take the interaction between US fast-food chain Wendy’s and one of their customers, Carter Wilkinson, for example.

Wilkinson became an instant viral sensation in April 2017, when he reached out to Wendy’s on Twitter to ask how many retweets it would take to get a year’s supply of free chicken nuggets. Many brands might shrug off a request like this, but Wendy’s replied, with an ask of 18 million retweets. Wilkinson then tweeted a screenshot of their correspondence as a plea for help from his followers. In a strange turn of events, the internet came to his aid in a big way and retweeted his plea 3.6 million times – making it the most retweeted tweet of all time as of January 2019. Although Wilkinson was far off from the initial target, Wendy’s ultimately surrendered and rewarded his efforts with a free year of chicken nuggets.

The key takeaway? Businesses of all sizes can (and should) engage with their customers online. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with your customers and treat them like regular people – this is where the real magic happens.  

Tip #2: Emphasise what makes you special

Our next tip is inspired by a surprising source – Grumpy Cat. Arguably the internet’s most popular pet, Grumpy Cat was renowned for her permanently grumpy facial expressions, depicted in millions of memes around the world. But what can we take from this feline star’s rise to virality?

Quite simply, to embrace what makes your business unique, and to leverage social media as a means to spread the word about why your products and services are special. In a market where multiple businesses are offering the same thing, emphasising your uniqueness is essential to standing out from the crowd and winning consumers over.

Tip #3: Stay true to your brand

There are many marketing avenues available, but there is no one-size-fits-all road to success. This is something that Texas coffee roaster Cuvée Coffee understood well. Recognising that the typical social media influencer didn’t really fit their brand, largely supported by blue-collar workers, Cuvée Coffee enlisted the help of an advertising agency to create their own influencer persona played by an actual construction worker, Omar @justaconstructionguy.

In his photos, Omar appears as an ordinary construction worker, with a love for great coffee and a knack for poking fun at today’s influencer culture. The goal was to get Omar to 1 000 followers, but he became a viral sensation, growing his account to a whopping 583 000 followers (and counting) in the space of three short months. And not a single cent was spent on promoting Omar’s account. Which just goes to show that it pays to stay true to your brand. If a traditional marketing channel isn’t quite working for you, don’t be afraid to carve a new path for reaching your target market.

Tip #4: Have a bit of fun

Our final tip is inspired by a brand close to home – Engen. Back in 2016, Engen staged a fun petrol attendant dance-off at one of their garages in Cape Town. In the video clip, men dressed as petrol attendants can be seen busting some serious dance moves, much to the delight of their customers. The dance-off was recorded and shared to social media, ultimately going viral with over 700 000 views on Facebook alone.

The important tip here is to have fun with your marketing. Generally, anything that makes people laugh or smile, is likely to get more clicks and shares. Let your brand personality shine through, and your target audience will surely respond well to it. As a famous advertising executive, Leo Burnett once said, “Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.”

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