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Viral Marketing: Storytelling on Social Media Worth Millions and How To Do It!

Sometimes viral marketing success seems as likely as winning the lottery; while it is achievable, it appears to always be a win for someone else. So, what do you have to do to create marketing content that goes viral and how do you keep it going? 

What is Viral Marketing:

What Is “Going Viral”?

Viral marketing, or “going viral,” is a style of organic social content marketing that results from audiences rapidly sharing and re-sharing a particular content piece, such as a reel, story, post or video, on a social media platform. This can also include blogs and news articles. If shared exponentially, theoretically, it would appear on nearly every active social media account’s social feed.

What Counts As Viral Marketing?

Often, viral marketing involves popular memes with trending music tracks added or a captioned universal truth that applies to a unique situation. Think of the posts where Victoria Beckham is being fact checked by her husband David in her documentary ‘Beckham’, or the Baby Yoda memes from the hit Star Wars spin off ‘The Mandalorian’. 

Why Is It So Lucrative For Businesses And Influencers?

Social media platform owners want to draw people to their platform and increase the total number of users, as more users increase the cost of advertising and sponsored content on their platforms, a lucrative form of monetization that is user driven. Therefore, there is considerable incentive to pay macro influencers for their viral content. YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter (X), Snapchat and Instagram all have creator programs for users to sign up for paid content. However, Meta (Facebook & Instagram) will cease paying for content in the coming months, and it is noted that Instagram macro influencers can still earn income through sponsored advertising and other commercial ventures.

While it’s hard to define what makes a campaign viral, it is estimated that there are millions of viral videos happening in the world on each platform, with a potential payday of millions for the more influential macro influencers.

What Is The Macro Influencer “Hack”?

Viral marketing comes from a place of universal truth, human connection, commonplace reactions and situational humour. By reflecting something that many can sympathise with and interpret as good fun and insightful rather than mean, it will be shared more often as a way of connecting with other people of shared interests. So let’s look at some famous viral influencers who have been trending, making the most of a marketable situation and capitalising on their popularity. 

Finding A Worthy Influential Story To Tell And Establishing Your Brand

Jimmy Rees: ‘Meanwhile in Australia’ series. 

Jimmy Rees became a household name through “relatable storytelling” during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He experimented with humour found in commonplace frustrations through relatable situations as a new father. He then began to dabble in lighthearted mimicry of recognisable Australian stereotypes, personifications and anthropomorphism humour. Once the world went into lockdown and the Australian state leaders began calling all the shots down under, the 58 part viral video series ‘Meanwhile in Australia’ became the go to humorous stress relief for thousands of Australians in isolation. While a single video never reached more than 200K views in the beginning on any one social content platform, he rose to international fame and is still relevant today.

One year after his viral debut, Jimmy’s content received over 15.3 million views a month on Facebook, an average of 500K views a day, along with a growing audience in the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. His content would hit an average 1 million reach within 24 hours on Facebook, while also adding 600% annual KPI growth on Instagram and more than 10 million likes on TikTok in 2021.

Jordan Watson: ‘How to Dad’ series

New Zealand born and bred Jordan Watson, a.k.a. “How to Dad,” started his viral journey in 2015 when he posted a comical home video on YouTube titled “How to Dad,” an instructional video on how to hold a baby for his soon-to-be-dad friend. After the video reached record views at the time, Jordan began his series of what he calls “Z grade fame” and, by the following year, began recording weekly videos. Within 2 years, Jordan quit his job and began his full-time role as a viral vlogger on social media.

His brand consisted of a stereotypical reflection of the everyday struggling parent and their different styles of parenting, representing them in a humorous way without insult. He resonated with parents everywhere and their daily struggles, all while sharing a laugh at his expense, a much loved style of self deprecating humour. Nowadays, he has generated up to 172 million views on YouTube and 250 million views on Facebook. His YouTube earnable income is reported to be $3,000 per video as a base level earning, with the potential to earn upwards of $30,000K for any video that goes viral.

Reesa Teesa: ‘Who TF Did I Marry’ series 

American TikTok user Reesa Teesa first went viral in February 2024 with a video telling the harrowing story of truth regarding her experience with a pathological liar of an ex-husband and the woeful tale of false identity and fraud. While Reesa did not use humour to connect with her audience, she utilised the realism of an uncommon yet familiar situation with a heartfelt and moving, calming tone to explain her situational story. By disclosing her personal experience in a way that explores her thought process and her and others reactions to situations in the story, those that watched her videos drew recognisable attributes to her situation and became followers, with a desire to hear the end of the story.

At present, Reesa has 3.7 million followers on TikTok with 41.7 million likes. By the last video in her 50 part viral series, Reesa was experiencing around 100K comments per video and 1000’s of conversations ongoing with viewers sharing their experiences and discussing her story online. While Reesa was unable to earn income from her 50 part viral video series due to being suspended from the ‘Tiktok Creator Fund’ for failing to adhere to strict guidelines, it is yet to be determined if she is earning income from any new viral videos.

It is theorised that Ressa could have earned approximately $150,000 USD from her estimated total of 150 million views, with the TikTok content creator rate set at $1 USD per 1,000 views. In addition to her main 50 part series, Ressa also posted 17 live responses to her series, with an estimated 1 million views for her first live video and 4 million from her latest upload, hypothetically equating to an additional $18,200 USD. As an option, if Ressa had opted to post her 50 part series on YouTube as well, she could have earned considerably more, with YouTube reportedly paying its creators roughly $12 USD per 1,000 views. 

What To Do After Your First Viral Video

Have you ever heard the idiom “a one-trick pony”? It’s based on the principle belief in the circus that a circus pony that can only do one trick is not going to entertain a crowd for very long. The same goes for viral videos and branded entertainment. Once you have created a viral phenomenon, the trick is to not stop at one, but to continue to create engaging content that will continue to drive views and follows to your account.

Example: Jimmy Rees: Multiply Your Series Offerings

Jimmy Rees certainly was not a one trick pony when it came to generating viral video content. During the success of his ’Meanwhile in Australia’ series, Jimmy began exploring new online material with his “The Guy who…”, “Border Control…”, “Meanwhile at…”, “A Letter from…”, “Meanwhile in…”, “POV: You’re…”, “Career Change…”, “Judge Jimmy…”, “The Not So Emergency Department…”, “Pass the Test…” and “Say it Properly” series. Each video mirrors the style and aesthetics of his original ‘Meanwhile in Australia’ series, with the gradual improvement of props, camera equipment and the inclusion of the occasional blooper reel at the end. Each new series hit its mark with his now identified target audience, which eventually led to the sale of his props as merchandise on his website as well as his children’s books to supplement his new influencer income.

Jordan Watson: Giving Them What They Want 

After the success of his ‘How to Dad’ series online, Jordan Watson began to produce more humorous educational content on behalf of dads everywhere and fellow New Zealanders who wanted more representation online. Such examples are “The Difference Between…” to target his international followers who are keen to learn more about New Zealand culture, “Dad Rant…” and  “Life as a Toddler…” (sponsored by Purex). For the New Zealand Maori community, Jordan produced a “How to say…” series to correct mispronunciations of place names and phrases in New Zealand; “How to sport…” is a humorous feature on famous New Zealand sports; and “How to food…” is an exploration of nostalgic NZ foods and snacking. Jordan’s ability to apply his “Kiwi Bogan Dad” brand in every video resonated with many proud Kiwis. His video campaign eventually led to a TED Talk in Christchurch in 2017 on viral videoing and appearances as a local celebrity at national events.

Reesa: Live Q&As and Discussions

During her fame, Reesa Teesa decided to address common questions she was being asked and took the opportunity to clear the air on popular misconceptions about her story. By going live, she was able to regain control of her narrative and also re-engage her audience by answering their questions and delving deeper into the things she mentioned in the videos. 

The trick is to “get it while it’s hot,” that is, to capitalise on your trendability while the conversations are happening. When platforms began publishing articles about her story, Reesa was quick to jump on TikTok and talk about it. Allowing her to post content through other people’s influences.

Find A Promotional Partner And Start Capitalising

As viral videos come and go, it’s worthwhile to establish a way to secure regular income where you can get it. Some will go the way of creating merchandise; others will appear in advertisements (as their viral personas); and others will partner with brands that will help to increase their following independently. Sometimes, a company may sponsor you if they feel that your brand and influence are likely to continue trending and go viral again and again.

Jimmy Rees: Merchandise And Sponsorship

Jimmy Rees started to appear in iconic collaborative posts for, Woolworths, Specsavers Every Plate Australia food deliveries, Visit Singapore tourism and Audible. He was even pitched for ABC shows and interviews relevant to his viral videos. Considering that Jimmy was the parent of 3 kids all under 5, he began selling merchandise prop lines from his videos for those who wanted memorabilia or simply to role play at home. Jimmy’s merchandise was so popular that at one point, when he accidentally broke his original prop from the show, he didn’t have any stock on hand to replace it for his next recording session.

Jordan Watson: Go Beyond The Digital

Jordan Watson was experiencing phenomenal fame two years into his career in viral videos. He was approached to create books, clothing and accessory merchandise for sale, educational workshops on viral video creations, and international adventures and collaborations. Jordan also posted about being the Guinness world record holder for the fastest 100m sprint in jandals (thongs).

His latest project, however, is a collaboration with a brand called Golden for the production of durable jandals with a unique design that will prevent the “de-plugging” of your, as we say in Aussie land, “double pluggers.” Jordan began to create viral videos for the product, even challenging everyday people to try and break the jandal by de-plugging them. Golden brand jandals are selling well, and reportedly, while Jordan is credited with the idea and has stocks in the product patent, he has not, to date, contributed financially to the cost of manufacturing and producing Golden brand jandals.

Take It On The Road

When the viral videos have begun to lose momentum, it’s a good sign that it is time to take your show on the road and draw attention back to the original videos that made you famous. Partners that want to capitalise on your popularity will jump on board and present opportunities to talk about how you did it, create a greatest hits stand up show or travel abroad to meet and greet your virtual fanbase. This is a great way to come full circle and reflect on what made you famous and your journey so far, and that is something you can talk about on your travels.

Jimmy Rees: The ‘Meanwhile In Australia’ Tour

After the success of the ‘Meanwhile in Australia’ video series, Jimmy Rees began planning his first national tour, a one man show where he challenged himself to reenact his most popular viral videos in front of a live audience. After the first tour sold out, Jimmy arranged for more tour dates and local events in regional Australia to keep the momentum going. This was a great opportunity to connect with his audience and discover what his fans love about his show.

Jordan Watson: International Collaborations And Special Guest Appearances

Jordan Watson received an overwhelming response to his videos overseas and he developed opportunities to collaborate with other influential people. He famously interviewed Mel Gibson and John Lithgow, as well as Mark Walburg and Will Farrell, while on tour for their movie, Daddy’s Home 2.

Recently, Jordan has been participating in collaborative videos with the All Blacks Rugby team, a dream for millions of dads around the world; strategic candid camera silliness with the NZ America’s Cup team, parody skits with comedy millennial vlogger Chris out of water, hello fresh dinners, charity events like the Kids Can four square 24 hour challenge, The Manu World Championship event as well as network interviews, podcasts and radio. The list goes on.

Reesa Teesa: Start Another Journey And Get Endorsements

Recently, there is news online that Reesa plans to go on a European holiday very soon and is seeking advice from her followers for where to go and what to do. It has even been reported that she has been contacted by brands such as Marriott, Kitsch, Smashbox Cosmetics, Tinder, Adidas, Microsoft, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Five Below, who have reportedly “flooded” her comments section, offering to help with the trip.

There are also whispers in the media that Reesa has been contacted about adapting her story into a movie or original TV series. Fans have responded positively to the idea, with some even suggesting Reesa seek legal advice and pursue a copyright licence to manage any creative licences taken in the adaptation of her story.

Truth Time, Not Every Video Will Go Viral

You can’t plan a viral video! As much as you try, you never know which video is going to go viral and which one will be the dud. A lot of the time, your viral video will depend on the strength of its relatability to its audience, branding, timing, persistence (make it until you make it), current events, and other trending videos. Viral videos will often trend if the social mood is right, current topics are relatable and your content is not only genuine but also leads with an emotional hook and situational relevance. Once you have identified your brand, your content goals, and who your target audience is, you have the basic building blocks to create a potential viral video, and once you do, sign up for their creator paid programs and monetize on it.

Ignite Search knows exactly what is needed to make a viral video and can help you on your social media journey. To fine tune your viral video, your target audience and your social media strategy, contact the team at Ignite Search and arrange a consultation today. View our blog for more helpful insights for getting your marketing back on track and turning your vision into results!


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