When your brand or product goes viral on social media, you're in a win-win situation, right? Not always.

Viral marketing is a lot like the Wild West — when you navigate it the right way, it can do incredible things for your visibility and sales. But you need to know that a lot of its mechanisms are out of your control.

Viral marketing is, at its core, consumer-based — that means your campaign and approach can succeed or fail based on the whims of your audience. However, you can easily strategize your way to viral marketing success: cutting-edge research is here to show you how:

Look beyond popularity.

A study from Microsoft Research and Stanford University found that events that go viral aren't so much as "popular" events, but are events that spread via word-of-mouth. So, get granular. Go grassroots.

You want to carefully target the audience you know will spread the word about your product first. Look to your existing, loyal consumer base and directly ask them to pass the word along as part of your campaign.

Put your message upfront.

Forbes reports that 55% of social media readers actively spend less than 15 seconds reading copy on a page. If you want your message to go viral, lead with it, and lead big.

Use the following elements in your message for viral attention.

Emotion; innovation; interaction, such as copy including quizzes; engaging video; and writing copy that contains more than 1,000 words all capture the attention of consumers who can spread your message like wildfire. Hit each of these points.

Track, track, track.

A study from Rand Afrikaans University author H.B. Klopper found that viral marketing success is largely dependent upon consumer mood and a few factors, such as whether a message turns positive or negative; how rapid the transmission of the message is; and how well understood the message it.

The key to riding these waves is to scrupulously track the message you've sent, and to hone it for clarity or reboot its statement of intent as needed.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Viral marketing should be only one aspect of your digital focus. Don't count on it, but mine it thoroughly as part of a diversified campaign. It could have fantastic ramifications for your brand if you target the right way!