Viral Marketing vs Digital Marketing: What’s The Difference?

Viral Marketing Vs Digital Marketing Wide

Are you wondering the difference between viral marketing and digital marketing?

Here’s an overview of viral marketing vs digital marketing: Viral Marketing is a form of marketing on social media to attract customers with shareable content. Digital marketing is focused on selling digital products through marketing channels.

Viral marketing is actually a specific type of digital marketing, which means it falls under digital marketing as a subcategory.

I’ll be sharing some more now on:

Let’s dive right in. 

Viral Marketing Vs Digital Marketing: What Is Viral Marketing? (How Does Viral Marketing Work?)

Viral marketing is a type of marketing where people are more likely or incentivized to share content which in turn promotes a business’ brand.

What’s interesting about viral marketing is that it can take place both on accident or on purpose.  We all love viral videos and many times want to share them with everyone we know.

This is the heart of going viral: shareability.

Think about it…

The only way to have something spread on social media like wildfire is if that piece of content is highly shareable.  If it gets a bunch of likes on Facebook though, well you can forget about it. 

The algorithm of any social media platform isn’t in your favor until people start sharing your content.  At that point, the social media platform has no choice but to start organically promoting your content and your content will start to go viral.

Viral Marketing Vs Digital Marketing: Types Of Viral Marketing Channels

Here are the different types of viral marketing.

1. Emotional Viral Marketing

Emotional viral marketing is all about appealing to certain human emotions.  If a certain video, blog post, or tweet makes you feel good and fired up, then you’re primed and ready to share that content.

The stronger that the emotional appeal is for a specific piece of content, the more likely it is for that content to be shared by many people.

Common emotions include being overjoyed, amazed, astonished, and thankful.  This set of common supportive or happy emotions are sure to start a piece of content to go viral.  

In the same way, negative emotions such as frustration, anger, hatred, and disgust will cause people to share content that has the potential to go viral.

Again, everything for this type of viral marketing is tied back to the emotions and is focused on appealing completely to either being positive emotions or negative emotions.

2. Buzz Viral Marketing (Controversial Topics)

Buzz viral marketing is a type of marketing where the goal is to stir up controversy.

There are many controversial topics that people have been discussing for lifetimes and generations. 


Because controversial topics create the buzz in buzz viral marketing. 

It’s focused on having one half or group of people against the other half and sharing the content along with their personal opinions on the topic in order to create virality.

3. Incentivized Viral Marketing (Giveaways)

Giveaways are common nowadays for many different brands and businesses to do.

By doing a giveaway, you’re tapping into what is called incentivized viral marketing.

In essence, incentivized viral marketing is offering a potential customer a chance to win a certain item or a set of items typically in exchange for sharing certain content and following a business on social media.

This is why giveaways are so great to do if you’re trying to build up your brand in an established niche.  It taps into the virality of other people sharing your content and consequently giving you massive exposure that would otherwise be very hard to obtain.

4. Social Currency Viral Marketing

Is there something that you like wearing as an outfit more than others?

If you think about it, this can be thought of as social currency.  You believe that the specific clothes you have make you look better and you enjoy wearing them.

Consequently, you’re likely to share the brand name and where you got them with your friends and family.

So, social currency viral marketing can be thought of as the better something makes a person look, the more likely they are to share it with others.

5. Story-Based Viral Marketing

Sharing stories has always been a powerful marketing tool to spread messages for generations.

A powerful story taps into the emotions and puts the reader or listener into the shoes of the character or person being told in the story.

The more the story can be related to, the more it will start to be shared and potentially go viral.

6. Informational Viral Marketing

Sometimes there’s certain information that needs to be heard.

In this case, making the information known by sharing it on social media and other digital platforms is a type of viral marketing.

7. Lucky Viral Marketing

Let’s get real… sometimes you just get lucky.

If you put out a piece of content that strikes the right tone with your audience, then you might get lucky and it starts to spread and get shared. 

Eventually, this could lead to a viral video or another form of content that ultimately promotes your brand.

Viral Marketing Examples & Campaigns

Here are a few viral marketing examples and campaigns.

Example #1: Dumb Ways To Die

In 2012, Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia made a campaign announcement to spread awareness on being safe around trains.

I remember when they came out with a couple of fun mobile games to spread their message, which was actually pretty enjoyable to play.  You can get it here on Apple and Google Play.

Example #2: Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge actually went viral in 2014.  It was centered around promoting awareness on Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).

The Ice Bucket Challenge was where someone took a bucket of freezing cold ice water and dumped it on themselves.  They then nominated someone else to do the same or donate to a charity foundation.

Here’s a successful viral marketing video of Bill Gates doing the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Viral Marketing Advantages & Disadvantages

Let’s take a look now at some of the advantages and disadvantages of viral marketing.

Viral Marketing Advantages

The advantages of viral marketing are:

  1. Minimal Cost – The cost for a piece of content to go viral is really only the production cost that it took to make the content.  Other than that, there’s really no additional cost, since the content is shared to obtain virality.
  2. Extended Brand Reach – A lot of times, a certain company’s video may go viral and consequently extend their reach even beyond the normal targeted audience.  For instance, if your brand is focused on sports, then a viral video could still reach someone in a completely different niche such as music.  This ultimately extends the reach of a company’s brand.
  3. Launch Fast – If you’re a new company, then one of the best things to do when trying to launch your brand is to utilize the power of viral marketing.  You can grow brand awareness in ways that would otherwise be nearly impossible as a new company with limited funds and resources.
  4. Non-Obtrusive To Customer – A viral piece of content is pretty much the exact opposite of a Facebook ad.  On Facebook, the goal of an ad is to be obtrusive and stop someone from what they’re doing to pay attention to what a company may have to offer.  On the other hand, viral marketing lends itself to the consumer being willing to view the content and share it.
  5. Increased Brand Credibility – The overarching theme for viral marketing is increased brand awareness.  Along with that though comes improved credibility in the space.

Viral Marketing Disadvantages

The disadvantages of viral marketing are:

  1. Difficult To Predict – You can’t really predict when a certain piece of content will actually go viral.  This is why you shouldn’t try to rely too heavily on viral marketing for your brand and instead simply create epic content that’s inherently shareable.
  2. No Control Over Brand Reach – It’s true that when your content goes viral you don’t have any control over who sees it or shares it.  This could mean that the audience sharing it isn’t a group of people that could become potential customers.

Digital Marketing Vs Viral Marketing: What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is marketing products online and using any form of digital technologies to ultimately drive traffic to your offers, make sales, and spread your message.  

Digital marketing is what drives the promotion of a company’s products across every channel online.  Ultimately, this will bring in customers and sales to build and grow a business.

Digital Marketing Vs Viral Marketing: Types Of Digital Marketing Channels & Examples

Here are the different types of effective digital marketing channels & Examples.

1. Email Marketing Example

Email marketing is in many ways the lifeblood of every business.

With an online business, you’re typically promoting content on social media channels or other platforms that you don’t fully own as a company.  This means that the traffic source could be cut off at any moment.

This is why it’s so important to invest heavily as a company into growing your email list.  

2. Social Media Marketing Example

Social media marketing is a type of marketing centered around promoting your brand awareness on social media.

The main social media sites are Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, and Youtube.

3. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Example

Search engine optimization is a powerful type of digital marketing.

It’s the type of digital marketing that I’m most interested in. 

SEO allows you to target keywords (whether they’re informational or buyer-intent) to draw in customers.  Google is the largest search engine followed by Youtube in second.

Using SEO is a great way to increase brand awareness for free and organically.

4. Content Marketing Example

Content marketing (or inbound marketing) is whereas a company you create content that’s centered around what you’re offering as a product.

The content created can take the form of social media posts, videos, or blog posts that directs traffic ultimately to your sales funnels and offers.

5. Affiliate Marketing Example

Affiliate marketing is another great type of digital marketing channel that is perfect for small businesses.

You can promote other people’s products using an affiliate link and earn an affiliate commission whenever someone clicks and purchases another company’s product through your affiliate link.

This means that all you have to do is focus on getting traffic and the marketing side of things to sell products.  All the hard stuff of customer support and payment processing is handled by the other company.

Digital Marketing Advantages & Disadvantages

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of digital marketing.

Digital Marketing Advantages

  1. Target Specific Audience – Probably one of the best things you can do with digital marketing is to target specific audiences.  Instead of putting up a huge billboard on the side of the road where most people are not interested in it, you can instead run a Google ad to target a specific buyer-intent keyword.  This is an incredible opportunity to meet your customers right where they’re at and increase conversion rates for your business.
  2. Cost-Effective – You don’t have to rent out a building to start marketing.  Instead, you can get started for free on social media to start spreading the message that you want to get out to the world through your brand.
  3. Target Specific Points In Customer Journey – You have direct access with digital marketing to meet a customer wherever they’re in the sales process.
  4. Adaptation Is Simple – You can run split-tests easily with a sales funnel software to increase conversions of a landing page.  This results in more sales for you and your company.
  5. Increased Brand Competitive Edge – Lastly, using digital channels gives you a competitive advantage of being able to follow your customers around on social media, Google, other sites, and in their email inbox.

Digital Marketing Disadvantages

  1. Quickly Evolving – It can be hard at times to keep up with the digital landscape.  It’s an ever-changing playing field that requires close attention for your brand to stay on top of the competitors.
  2. Digital Piracy – People copy content and products online like crazy.  Currently, there’s no real security software or strategy that can 100% protect your business.

Viral Marketing Vs Digital Marketing Conclusion: My #1 Recommended Digital Marketing Course

Legendary Marketer Online Business Builder ChallengeHopefully, you learned quite a bit about the difference between digital marketing and viral marketing.  I personally recommend the 15 Day Online Business Builder Challenge as the best digital marketing course if you’re looking to get started building a digital marketing business.

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Affiliate Disclaimer

I hope you enjoyed this post.  This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission if you make a purchase.

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