Social media has plenty of marketing power. But it is especially useful when ideas go viral. The biggest sensation to go viral this year so far was a simple post of a dress. A lady’s post on Tumbler went viral as she tried to end a debate on whether a dress was white and gold or blue and black. Known as The Great Dress Debate, this simple quest for an answer became a social media craze. Another example of a social media craze was a fundraiser that intrigued the entire nation last year—the Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge involved pouring a bucket of ice water on someone’s head in order to raise awareness and money for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
While short-lived, both of these examples show how quickly a simple post can reach millions of people through social media channels. In fact, by early September 2014, more than two million videos of the Ice Bucket Challenge surfaced on Facebook, with 28 million people commenting, liking, or uploading the challenge. Instagram also had3.7 million uploads of the challenge. Within just two days, the dress post received 73 million views on Tumblr. And these are just a few of the numbers.
In both instances, viewers could participate, making the posts more appealing. Viewers debated amongst one another over the color of the dress and challenged friends to the Ice Bucket Challenge. Even celebrities and companies decided to play along. Celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Tom Cruise, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, and so many more participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. Companies such as Pillsbury, Old Spice, Samsung, and KFC produced commercials referring to the Ice Bucket Challenge. And for the dress debate, Julianne Moore, James Franco, Taylor Swift, and numerous other celebrities commented on the dress color. Companies used the dress debate as an opportunity to get free visibility by referring to their own brand colors. Some brands involved in the debate included: Coca-Cola, Duracell, Coors Light, Hellmann’s, AT&T, Dominoes, American Airlines, Tide, Play-Doh, Oreo, Dunkin’ Donuts, and many more. The debate was such a national sensation that discussions made their way on talk shows such as The Ellen Degeneres Show and The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.
According to the 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report produced by Social Media Examiner, the number one reason marketers use social media is to increase exposure. This reason supersedes others such as improve sales, provide market insight, generate leads, and others. While these viral posts had nothing to do with celebrity status or company success, it gave both companies and celebrities the ability to become more visible. It also made them seem more accessible because they were participating in the same events as the rest of the population. By capitalizing on social media posts, companies and celebrities can make a real connection with consumers, and at no or little cost. The more visible celebrities or companies, the more valuable they become.