How to Harness Virality to Blow Up Your Events

Jayson DeMers
How to Harness Virality to Blow Up Your Events

Event promotion was hard enough before the Internet age. When promotional tools like Facebook, Twitter and email marketing came along, marketers and promoters rejoiced. However, due to the fact that online event marketing and promotion is easier than ever, there are more ways than ever it can fail horribly. Bad design, irritating tactics and overwhelming your target audience can all get you in trouble, leading to bad event turnouts and even bad publicity.

However, you can prevent these by following best practices and learning what your target audience best responds to — whether it’s dance parties or networking events. Using the viral potential of the internet can help bring in a successful event turnout.

Viral Marketing

astronaut Viral marketing involves producing content that has been specifically crafted to make people want to share it. The most successful viral marketing campaigns involve something unique, such as the Old Spice commercials or Red Bull's jump from space.

However, as Mashable points out, things can go horribly wrong when brands try to "go viral" — it often comes across as disingenuous. Any content created to promote something should be upfront about what it's trying to do. That's when making something over-the-top can be successful.

For instance, say the CEO of a company promises to run a mile backwards for everyone who promises to bring a pair of new shoes to their fundraising event, and uploads a video of himself walking on his hands explaining the challenge. That is going to go over much better than the same company attempting to shoot a "hidden" video of celebrities wearing their shoes and talking about the upcoming event.

In other words, genuine nuggets of the weirdness are what people want to share. No one likes sharing a cheesy commercial. Give people a reason to root for your company by creating something they can't wait to tell people about.

How Can Search Engines Help?

Successfully pulling off a viral marketing campaign is very difficult, but a carefully crafted search engine marketing strategy can help.

Start by publishing your content. Next, write a blog post about it, then post an eye-catching banner promoting the event with a link to the blog post or event landing page for more information. Have employees and colleagues share event information on their own blogs or social media profile. Submit press releases and event notices to local newspapers, PR outlets and event calendars. The more places the information is syndicated, the greater chance a user will find it through a referral site or search results.

PPC can also help promote the content. StumbleUpon Ads, for instance, provide a cheap but effective and simple way to promote content and drive viewership. Social sharing tools on landing pages should also be prominent so your company can get as much exposure as possible from every single click. For more specific tactics to create virality around your content, see my article, “The Definitive Guide to Writing and Promoting a Viral Infographic.”

Implementing Social Media

Impressions and clicks make a big difference for your event in social media as well. Many publishers and social media sites gauge content’s popularity by views and shares, which creates a snowball effect. The more views and shares your content has, the more it’ll get. PPC campaigns on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can accrue impressions quickly, gaining visibility for your event much faster.

If you’re not sure how to use social media to boost your marketing initiative, see the following articles:

Taking it Offline: Guerilla Marketing

shark weekGuerilla marketing is the offline version of viral marketing. Luckily, the two work together quite well. Guerilla marketing is basically any unconventional, low-cost means of spreading a message. The key to make a guerilla method viral is to record and share everything online. For instance, Discovery Channel had "lifeguards" set up around New York City to promote Shark Week. (photo courtesy of ad agency Interference Incorporated Facebook page.)

Besides making a visual offline impact, this guerilla marketing strategy promoting a television channel had a huge online impact. The lifeguards allowed people to take photos with them, which were most likely shared via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

The stunt generated considerable buzz and achieved viral status. To get started with a guerilla marketing campaign, take a look at what has worked for other companies and go from there.


The key to a successful viral offline and online marketing campaign is to get people's attention in a fun and unique way that isn't deceitful. By combining social media, SEO, PPC, content, and offline guerilla promotion, you’ll have the best shot at generating viral buzz.

Photo credit: Image 1, Red Bull 

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Jayson DeMers is the founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing and social media agency. He’s also a contributor to Forbes, Huffington Post, and other major media publications. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter.
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I like the idea of ads on a tier 2 social site like StumbleUpon. I'd like to think they have a better conversion, but also know that their targeting is not as niche as something like FB.
Jayson DeMers
Eric Van Buskirk
Yeah, I've had great luck with StumbleUpon ads. Definitely worth giving a shot!

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