Going Viral with social media and multimedia.

Going Viral with Social Media

Kelly “Rags” Ragland is owner and operator of Rags to Stitches Productions, a holistic advertising-specialty company providing a range of services from web design and development to customized apparel.

I have been raising an eyebrow to some great online marketing ideas that I see as being effective year-round. These methods of marketing mayhem utilize the viral impact of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

Lead by example

The first viral promotion that caught my eye came from the official Facebook page of the Dallas Cowboys. Their page was closing in on around 350,000 “Likes” prior to the week of Cyber Monday—the Monday following Black Friday that is well-known for online shopping. The pro football team was gearing up for what would be a steady stream of offers through their Facebook and Twitter pages directing fans to their online store for gifts throughout the holiday shopping season.

What better way to kickoff that marketing effort by challenging their existing 350,000 Likes to share an online promotion? The promotion encouraged Facebook users to help its page reach 400,000 Likes by a specific date. Those that participated were offered a special T-shirt for less than $10.

As a result, thousands of fans shared and distributed the challenge across their social networks. The promotion not only went viral and reached what was 10 times the number of current Facebook fans, but the franchise easily reached its goal within just a few days, adding a quick 50,000 qualified consumers to their Facebook stream as a bonus.

The icing on the cake? Imagine the number of T-shirts they sold as a result… and what likely included shoppers adding more than just that discount T to their shopping cart on the way to placing their order. Clearly an NFL team can and will reach extreme numbers. But a smaller, local business can also learn from this approach.

As November reached its half-way point, the local sports bar and grill where I run a weekly dart tournament started a similar promotion on Facebook. It ran a special to reach 1,000 “Likes” to where each person who participated received a coupon for free food. Similar to the Dallas Cowboys promotion, there was an incentive to share, a goal to reach a wider audience and a prize to be had for following that call to action.

By the end of November, The Dirty Rooster Sports Bar and Grill had easily added 200 more local “Likes” (a.k.a. qualified local customers) to its Facebook stream and exceeded the goal of 1,000.

In December, they simply posted a coupon for their followers to print out for a free appetizer any time or a buy-one-get-one-free burger during lunch hours. Naturally it included an expiration date of December 31 in order to capitalize on filling some seats in their restaurant in a timely manner.

Having observed these great marketing ideas, when I updated my dart shirts blog and sent an email promotion for The 2011 Dart Players Holiday Gift Guide, I decided to try a viral promotion of my own. I challenged my Facebook “Likes” and Twitter followers to a simple task: share my Holiday Gift Guide on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or on any darts blog and be automatically entered in a drawing for a free dart shirt. The more they shared, the more times they were entered into the drawing. I covered my bases with a deadline of December 25 and limited the entrees to countries that kept shipping and handling to a reasonable level.

Once the promotion was launched, I sent a reminder about the contest on a weekly basis to my social networks and began seeing more Likes on my Facebook page, more followers on Twitter and Google+, and a steady stream of sharing, posting and re-tweeting from dart players worldwide. Before year’s end, I was able to check into each network’s statistics to see the results and randomly select a winner.

The exciting part is having a promotion that runs on autopilot. Users share with their friends and followers, that group shares again and the viral impact keeps the My Dart Shirts brand and my Holiday Gift Guide flowing through online streams around the web with little to no effort on my end.

Viral Ideas

While these examples worked well for holiday promotions, it’s important to note that viral promotions can be used any time of year. This past summer I won a little contest on Facebook from The Texas Tamale Warehouse. The challenge was simply to guess how many days in a row we’d exceed 100° temperatures in Dallas.

Such viral marketing ideas take very little effort and only a small investment of time. Using the “Questions” feature on Facebook, one can easily pose a question that will go viral among your target audience. Challenge local followers to guess what the high school football team’s final record will be by season’s end. Or get creative with a hot topic, silly joke or current event.

Get creative, offer a call to action to get people sharing and liking your network pages and watch the promotion flood the pages of others. It is profitable and truly exciting, and can be done several times throughout each year.