Now that we know what viral marketing is, we have to face a hard truth: You can’t make viral marketing. It just happens.

So why read on? Because I said you can’t make a viral campaign, I didn’t say you couldn’t have one.

Let’s cut to the chase. By its very nature, viral is something that spreads quickly with no pattern or path. Think of a literal virus. You co-worker could have it and you don’t. Your spouse could have it and you don’t. Then some random guy in line at Starbucks has it, and now you do. Logic says you would catch it from those you spend the most time with, but a virus defies logic. It is just out there. You could catch it anytime, anywhere, or it could pass you by completely.

The same is true in viral marketing. A friend sends you an e-mail with a quirky video. You pass it on. You laugh about it at work for a few days, and then it’s done. Or you could never see it, have a vague idea it exists, but live your life completely unaffected. (A good litmus test; did you get Elfed this Christmas?)

So what are the keys to harboring a good viral campaign? You have to consider your audience, or the audience you are targeting. What would connect them to your product? What would they find funny? What would they be willing to pass on?

Next, you need a good concept. A good viral campaign is creative, outside-the-box, but still needs a direct association with your product or service. A great example of this is Will It Blend? Blendtec found a unique and creative way to market a pretty boring product by highlighting features consumers may not need but sure are fun to watch. (Check out the viral meets viral clip with Will It Blend Chuck Norris?).

You also have to determine your message? What are you trying to say through this effort? Are you just trying to raise awareness? Is there a direct call to action you are encouraging, such as going to your website, buying a certain product or promoting an idea? As with any marketing campaign, you must have an end goal to measure effectiveness.

Remember that viral can work for all (read: small) businesses. Because the delivery method (the Internet) is something everyone has access to, the playing field is leveled. Entry cost is low. And in the battle for eyes, the Internet provides some of the most cost effective marketing methods available. (Say SEO!).

So be a carrier! Check out awesome viral campaigns here and here. And don’t be afraid to pass them on!

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