What makes a video or advertisement catch on and go viral? Are these viral marketing successes due to well thought out campaigns or simply due to luck? How can you develop viral advertising campaigns to drive more traffic to your social media accounts and website? These topics along with vocabulary for viral marketing will be discussed in this lesson.

Business English Viral Marketing

Vocabulary – Expressions – Phrasal Verbs – Idioms:

Viral Marketing – a means of marketing by which consumers are encouraged to pass on an advertising message, usually on social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter. This term is specific to the internet.

Go viral – something goes viral when it is widely distributed across the internet very fast. An example might be the video of the doctor being dragged off of the United Airlines flight.

Virus – an organism which once it is established in its host, spreads extremely rapidly and can be passed on to other hosts.

Social Media – online websites which people use mainly for social interaction.

Social network – the web of people whom you reach out to when posting on social media – your friends, your friends’ friends, and perhaps their friends too.

Word of mouth – a means of spreading a message informally. For example, word of mouth might be used to spread news of a new pop-up restaurant venue.

Network marketing – a more formal way of using viral marketing, usually utilized when a product or service is being sold online, characteristically when a small profit is made at each stage as the offer is passed on or accepted.

Strong networks – personal networks which most people have, of close family and friends, generally people whom you know personally as well as online.

Weak networks – these can be very extensive, but not very committed; or example, you might have two thousand FaceBook friends, most of who you would not recognize if you passed them in the street.

Creating a buzz – engendering excitement and interest about a company, product or service, so that many people are talking about it.

Giveaways – things which are given away free in return for carrying out an action. For example, if you pass a message on, you might get the chance to enter a prize draw. If you buy one product, you might get another product free. It can be as simple, and cheap, as free information.

Eyeballs – a rather dismissive way to refer to the people who will be seeing your offer.

Easy transfer – for viral marketing to be successful, it must be very simple to pass the message on – hence “easy transfer”.

Scalable – having the ability to rapidly increase (or decrease) in numbers. For an offer to be scalable, the marketer must be able to deal with the response. For example, if you are giving away free goods, you must have enough to satisfy your maximum likely demand.

Motivation – the reason behind the actions that people carry out. Viral marketing needs consumers to have good motivation to respond.

Some other guy’s resource – in the words, a resource – a website, blog, article, etc, owned by someone else, into which you can insert your own marketing message legitimately. For example, you might respond to an article on dogs on a blog by mentioning your own book about dogs.

Brand awareness – the knowledge that a certain brand is available in the marketplace. Viral marketing Is a good tool for building brand awareness.

Brand image – the complex web of thoughts, feelings, and knowledge about a brand which users associate with it.

Entertainment value – viral marketers seek to create advertisements which are entertaining, intriguing, surprising, adorable or even shocking, in the hopes that they will “go viral”.

Market maven – a person who knows what is trending, who has their finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not. These are the people that viral marketers need to get their message across to first.

Metrics – the number of clicks, hits, shares, views and other similar desired activity.

Viral Marketing Live Example

Live Example:

Viral marketing is a relative newcomer to the marketing mix, the term having been coined around 1995. It has become one of the most potent and cost-effective tools in the marketing armory. In particular, with the rise in ownership of smartphones worldwide, the market can be cheaply and effectively penetrated, with astonishing metrics which translate into sales.

The entertainment value of ads has become a significant factor for creative teams. They have to create the motivation for consumers to pass ads on through social media. Market mavens with large social networks have become unique targets for the savvy marketer.

The President of the United States has demonstrated the public relations power of Tweeting, with his own brand of viral marketing.

Viral Marketing Live Conversation Example

Live Conversation Example:

Martin Tyler: We’ve had some great experience with viral marketing. The first time it was an accident, some market mavens got hold of a YouTube video of a client feeding our chips to her pet goat, and it got shared over a million times! We want something like that again.

Mary Toy: The viral market is getting crowded, but so long as an ad has good entertainment value, we’re in with a chance. That goat thing, surprisingly, really improved our brand image, it made us seem younger, more hip.

Martin Tyler: Yes, and that’s the image we want. But it’s not just a beauty contest, I want to see some good serious metrics.

Mary Toy: Sure, I understand. Maybe we could think about a competition or even a game. It has to be something scalable.

Martin Tyler: Please have your team bring me some thoughts…let us say, in a week from today. Come up with something that will create a buzz!

Viral Marketing Practice


Go online and find six examples of viral marketing. Show how each one is designed to be easily passed on.

How can your company create a buzz around your brands using two different forms of viral marketing?

Research how games can be used for viral marketing.

Are there any types of companies which should not consider viral marketing as part of their marketing strategy, and why?

How do you see the future of viral marketing developing?

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