Consider the case of J.O.N., an incredibly charismatic guy who the WOM mavens call an "influencer." He was a bit of a drifter, and a bit of an oddball, but when he spoke, people listened. Two of the people who listened -- we'll call them Pauly and Pete -- not only were in his thrall, they talked him up obsessively to everybody, and made some rather extravagant claims.
You know the urban legends about gerbils and Pop Rocks and stolen kidneys? They're nothing compared to the eye-openers whispered about J.O.N., but the improbable yarns somehow captured people's imaginations and were passed from one listener to another to another.
Even his death, an infamously violent one, did nothing to diminish his popularity. On the contrary, it only burnished his reputation and validated his worldview. In time, even the most bizarre and supernatural details of his legend were not only spread far and wide, but accepted at face value. In Armenia, for instance, where the guy had never set foot, he was an object of worship. Then all over southern Europe. Then Ethiopia. Then northern Europe.
That Jesus of Nazareth. His word-of-mouth was simply outstanding. With no advertising budget whatsoever, his brand soon swept the globe. Today it has 33% market share and 2.1 billion customers. Build a better God, and the world will beat a path to your door.
So don't let anyone forward you a clip of Ronaldhino volleying off the crossbar a few times tell you "viral" is a new phenomenon. BudTV? The King of Beers is 2000 years behind the King of Kings.