Going Viral: E-Commerce Brands’ Most Wanted Marketing Tactic

A woman's head wearing red sunglasses against a purple background that states "so you want to go viral?"

Everything e-commerce brands need to know about viral marketing: a short history, tips for going viral, and top trending content

One doesn’t need to be a social media guru to understand a brand’s audience and identify content trends. There is no tried and true formula for boosting shares, likes, and comments to the point of virality, but incorporating trends into a social media strategy can help increase the chances.

About Viral Marketing

Many brands strive to go viral online without fully understanding what that entails. While viral content may look effortless, a lot of thought and research go into it. Viral marketing is a strategy focused on creating social media or digital content that prompts visibility and sales. This marketing method solely relies on influencing social media audiences to share content with the public beyond the target audience organically. The trick to viral marketing is creating content the world considers worthy of sharing.

The History of Viral Online Content

Identifying the first piece of viral content posted on the internet is nearly impossible, but tracing it through more recent years can be helpful. The first trackable form of viral content, a meme, is still a common form of viral content today.

The first mention of a meme was in 1976 when Richard Dawkins explained in his book “The Selfish Gene” that a meme is the replication or evolution of widespread cultural phenomena. As the internet expanded, so did the definition of meme. According to Google, today, a meme is “an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variations.”

Memes first gained traction on email chains in the late 1990s. In the next decade, the progression of laptops alongside Facebook increased the number of people online. In the 2000s, image macros, an image with text overlay on the top and bottom, became the most common format of viral content.

The lolcat image macro is one of the first traceable examples of viral content. Various images of cats with witty text overlay surfaced all across the internet. After the conception of Facebook in 2004, email chains took the backburner, and social media became the breeding ground for memes and other viral content.

Viral content began to take the form of challenges and trends. The cinnamon challenge urged users to film themselves attempting to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon and then post it online. Around the same time, the ice bucket challenge went viral. Users would pour a bucket of ice water over their heads and film it to raise money for Lou Gehrig’s disease.

As social media platforms evolved, so did trending content. When Vine launched in 2013, short comical videos became the primary form of tending content. Today users still reference Vine’s most iconic viral videos, “Do it for the Vine,” “Damn Daniel,” and “Look at all those chickens.”

In 2016, TikTok took the internet by storm, exponentially increasing the ability of video content to go viral. The most popular Vine had 330 million views, while the most popular TikTok has 2.2 billion views. By gaining one billion active users in seven years, TikTok has surpassed the growth rate of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

With TikTok’s exponential rise in popularity, users are repurposing trends, sounds, and memes to make their content go viral. Today, short-form video content on TikTok or Instagram Reels seizes the spotlight from the simple memes of the past.

The Top Going Viral Tips for E-Commerce Brands

A graphic design that says follow trends, post content, and stay relevant referring to e-commerce viral marketing

New content trends on social platforms and web pages can pop up at any given moment, but that doesn’t mean brands should use all of them in their content strategy. The secret formula for going viral is only following the trends that make sense for a brand and its audience.

This formula applies to trending audio, video templates, and memes. If a brand has a lighthearted, bright persona, it should favor pop music or upbeat tracks versus trending rap or emo music. The best part of marketing in a sea of trending content is that no matter how niche a brand may be, there’s an audio or trend that will likely fit its persona.

Before hopping on a trend, there are a few rules brands should always follow:

● Brands should only follow trends that fit their brand identity
● Brands must post trendy content while it is still trending
● Content intended for viral marketing must be organic, not backed by paid advertising

Short-Form Video Trends for E-Commerce Brands

Trending video content on TikTok and Instagram Reels moves quickly. Instead of trying to keep up with each microtrend that arises, brands can hone in on broader trending content to elevate their social media marketing strategies.

Niche Trends

Within the TikTok and Instagram Reels sphere, audiences segment themselves into small communities concentrated on a niche topic. When users search #booktok, they’ll find book lovers sharing content like book reviews, hauls, and reading suggestions. Similarly, when searching #diytok, users will find a community of do-it-yourself users who share different project tutorials and craft ideas.

Brands that interact with a niche on TikTok and Instagram Reels can build up a loyal community interested in their products.

Product Trends

Many e-commerce brands on TikTok and Instagram Reels are creating their own trends. One popular way brands highlight their products is by showing viewers how they pack orders. The trend is called “pack an order with me” and has generated millions of views on both platforms. Brands participating in this trend can bring customers behind the scenes while hinting at them to purchase without being overbearing.

Making process videos is another way to give viewers a sneak peek into regular business operations. Brands will typically show the process of making their products paired with aesthetic sounds and visuals.

Brands can use process videos to create an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). According to Nebraska Medicine, ASMR is “a tingling, static-like, or goosebumps sensation in response to specific triggering audio or visual stimuli.” ASMR content became popular on YouTube in 2010 and continues to generate millions of views on TikTok and Instagram Reels.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

A red graphic design featuring text in pink boxes that says "I trust user-generated content more than myself" regarding e-commerce brands going viral

Thanks to worn-out advertising and marketing tactics, users are beginning to trust brands less and less. Users value opinions and recommendations from trustworthy people over a company or e-commerce brand. To build credibility organically, many company owners encourage fans of their products to share their experiences in the form of user-generated content (UGC). UGC is any content posted online by consumers instead of brands, including photos, videos, text, and reviews.

TikTok’s honest and creative environment constructs some of the most inventive UGC. When buying products they love, users are quick to share the unboxing process, upload a haul showing everything they purchase, or share a day in their life using a specific product.

The only downside to UGC is that brands don’t hold as much control over the content users post. A good brand reputation and a stellar customer service team will help to ensure that users have positive things to say about brands and their products.

Shopping hauls and product unboxings have been popular trends over the past few years and continue to garner millions of views on both platforms. E-commerce brands that capitalize on trends can build a database of content to share across their social media accounts.

Viral Marketing Changes Everything for E-Commerce Brands

An out of focus graphic design of the quote "the potential people associate with going viral is what keeps it alive" for e-commerce marketing

Viral marketing for e-commerce brands has led to overnight sellouts, free celebrity endorsements, and opportunities unparalleled to anything seen before the invention of social media. The potential people associate with going viral is what keeps it alive. As a result, viral marketing is a craze that isn’t ending anytime soon.

Call in a Viral Marketing Agency

POLA Marketing’s data-driven methods can relieve e-commerce business owners from the time-consuming work of building a viral marketing strategy. Our team can create an individualized approach that increases brand awareness and helps companies go viral. For more information, contact us at (polamarketing.com/contact/).

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