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Can a viral campaign make a positive influence on your nonprofit organization? By understanding how viral videos operate, you will be better equipped to decide if they are the right marketing product for your group.

Have you heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? The popular YouTube sensation hit social media in 2014 and raised over 1150 million dollars for charity. That level of interest in charity from a viral social media campaign surprised many in the nonprofit sector who hadn’t realized the full potential of  viral campaigns.

viral video campaigns

Popular Viral Videos and What Makes Videos Go Viral

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t the only nonprofit campaign to gain viral notability. The other companies to make their presence known as a part of a social media campaign include:

What made these videos popular enough to go viral? Each of these videos included at least one of the following aspects that make a video stay with the audience:

  • Humor
  • A personal connection
  • Controversy
  • Quality
  • Vibrant personalities

Also read: 5 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Instagram for Their Fundraising Campaigns

Why Do People Enjoy Viral Videos So Much?

Viral videos are a great way to get the message of your nonprofit across, but why do people enjoy watching them so much? The truth is that viral videos are usually designed in a way that allows us to feel better about ourselves.

Sometimes it’s the uplifting message behind “It Gets Better”. Other times, viral videos allow us to feel good by spreading an important message, such as the one offered by No Make Up Selfie For Cancer Awareness. Viral videos allow us to believe that we are making a positive impact each time we participate or share in the spread of the video.

How Far Can a Viral Video Reach?

Viral videos have an almost limitless reach. Anyone with access to the internet can be reached by your campaign, which is unique in the marketing field. Viral videos also have the benefit of organic marketing. This means that makers don’t have to push for their message to be heard as much. They can sit back and let social media and word of mouth do much of the work for them.

Viral videos have made hundreds of millions of dollars for charities and can attract a much greater audience than traditional marketing techniques, such as print or radio. For example, the ALS videos have been seen by more than 1 billion people.

Why Viral Videos are Good at Getting the Point Across Quickly and Inexpensively

One of the greatest benefits of viral videos is how easily accessible they are to a potential audience. More importantly for nonprofits, creating viral videos is much less costly than other forms of marketing. While you will have the cost of making the video, you will not have to pay YouTube to host it for you. Nor will you have to pay the individuals who come to YouTube and share it with others.

A good viral campaign will rely upon an active social media campaign platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, accounts that many nonprofits already have. Not having to pay each time the video is aired dramatically increases your ability to share your message with a greater number of people while still remaining within your budget.

Also read: Peer-to-Peer Trends and What They Mean for Your Nonprofit

Getting More People than Ever to Hear Your Message

With traditional marketing techniques, you need to offer your messages to certain audiences through media that they may already be consuming, such as print, radio or television. But with viral marketing, the ad will come across their Facebook feed, their Twitter timeline, or across their YouTube recommended viewing. Viewers of all ages, races and genders watch YouTube videos and participate in social media, so you will drastically increase your viewing audience. Viewing audiences bring awareness which brings money. This means your small budget, simple video has the potential to bring you millions.


Victoria Johnson is a media specialist for Sharpe Group. She often writes on various topics including nonprofits and charities.

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