Viral marketing, it just sounds horrible. The cross between the flu and spamming everyone online.

But the truth is a little different, and viral marketing is not only a powerful business tool. It is also the result of pure human reaction. Instagram is particularly rich in viral images and video.

This article shows the elements that tie the best viral content together. We’ll also take as look at how you can get your posts to go viral.

What is Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing (the online version) is any strategy that looks to encourage the passing of a marketing message between individuals, so it spreads through existing social media platforms and through the internet.

The advantage of having your business’s message passed around 1,000s or even millions of people can’t be overstated.

Instagram has seen many examples of viral images.

viral marketing on instagram


This particular image from Kylie Jenner’s page got a cool 3 million likes.

Different social media platforms will react better to different styles of image/video. But what’s the common thread that makes these kinds of images get passed around like a common cold??

The hidden ingredients of successful viral marketing

There is an element of chance of what gets to go viral. However, some bright sparks have had a look into just what makes people react to some content. Check out Contagious: Why Things Catch On by one such bright spark: Din Johnson.

The one common strand that runs through most viral stuff is it creates arousal in the viewer. In laymen’s terms, this is stuff that makes people emotional (really emotional).

These emotions can be broken into two basic categories. These are positive and negative. Positive emotions that get people moving are….

Awe, which is simply, “oh my god that’s amazing!”

that's amazing

Excitement, an image or article that gets people really buzzing.

And amusement: “That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen!”.


Negative arousal includes….

Anger………”I can’t believe he’s done that!!!”

And fear: “oh no!!!!”

The content with the best chance of going viral will have a large slice of at least one of these.

Generally speaking warm fuzzy emotions like satisfaction and contentment are big no-nos when it comes to viral marketing. These tend to lead to non-reaction, and you want people to react.

Is it possible to create viral content at the drop of a hat.

This is the holy grail of marketing. The more you can get your message out there, the better.

But as we mentioned, there’s a big element of luck involved in what gets ‘chosen’ to go mental on the net.

Do you remember PPAP that got like a 75 million views on Youtube?

That was by some unsuccessful Japanese comedian. There’s no way he knew (nor even intended) his crazy little ditty would go internationally viral.

It’s also important that you get the viral effect going around groups of people that are relevant to your business.

The Fake Steve Jobs showed us that 1.5 million visitors to your site is pretty meaningless if they ain’t buying.

The Six Simple Principles of going viral

  1. It has to be a great looking image/video
  2. It needs to create arousal in the viewer (see above)
  3. Give people a reason to share it.
  4. The image content must be generic enough for different groups to react it.
  5. Make it easy to share.
  6. Give it some personal element so people can relate to it.

Finally, it’s probably wise not to get too hung up on going viral. However, all of your images should contain the same essential ingredients of viral marketing anyhow. So look to the points above and see how you can weave them into your content.

Have you had any viral marketing success? Why not drop it below in the comments??

Images from Instagram

Thanks to these articles for assistance in putting this together: