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Viral Marketing Methods and Applications(Part I)

Viral marketing. It sounds like something you want to avoid like the plague. But it’s really something you and your business need to catch now.
Views: 1.200 Created 03/26/2008

Viral marketing. It sounds like something you want to avoid like the plague. But it’s really something you and your business need to catch now.

If you’re not yet familiar with the term “viral marketing” let me give you a basic definition. Viral marketing is simply a strategy that encourages individuals to “willingly” pass on a marketing message to others. It takes advantage of rapid multiplication to explode your marketing message to thousands or millions of people.

A viral marketing virus acts similar to a biological virus. But, the big difference between a viral marketing virus and a cold or flu virus is that people willingly pass the marketing message on. Not too many people really want to share their cold with others, but they’ll be more than happy to spread your “digital virus”. And when they spread it, they can spread it much farther than a biological virus. Your message can spread around the world in a matter of hours.
Elements of a Successful Viral Marketing Campaign

1. Offer something for free

Hotmail was such a huge success because it gave away something for free. No matter how much exposure people have to the word “free,” it still holds tremendous power. Although, you don’t have to use the word free in your campaign if it’s well implied.

Take for example a couple of videos that were done by a company called Jib Jab Media (www.jibjab.com). They created a video called “This Land” which was a satirical look into the 2004 presidential election race between President George Bush and Democratic presidential contender John Kerry. This video spread like wildfire across the Internet and created instant recognition for Jib Jab. It was so popular that Jay Leno of The Tonight Show commissioned Jib Jab to do a second one called “Good To Be In DC.”

In a lot of cases, viral marketing is all about delayed gratification. A successful campaign may not bring you immediate profit, but it sets the stage for future profits either through email addresses collected, advertising revenues, or sales of other products.

2. Make it easy for people to spread your message

Do you remember a time when you had a cold or flu and one of your family members caught it? You didn’t have to work too hard to give it to them did you?

It shouldn’t be much harder for people to spread your viral marketing message either. Viral marketing only works if passing along the virus is near effortless. In the case of Hotmail it was the short and concise message at the bottom of an email that said, "Get your private, free email at http://www.hotmail.com". People didn’t have to do anything they weren’t already going to do to spread this message. For Jib Jab, people just had to send a website address…a little more effort required, but nothing too strenuous.

You can do simple things like add a “Tell-A-Friend” button on your web site, including a catchy display ad graphic at the bottom of an email, starting an affiliate program to have other people sell your products, or do what Hotmail did with the simple message. The benefit of pointing people to a web site address is that you get more traffic to your web site, which has a very positive impact on search engine performance. With all the traffic you get to your website you get increased link popularity so your web site is more likely to rank higher in the free search engine searches.

To spread your message faster and farther in the easiest way possible, viral marketing combines extremely effectively with affiliate marketing. In case you’re not familiar with affiliate marketing, it’s simply a way to get other people to sell your product and you just give them a cut of the sale. You just provide your viral marketing tools to your affiliates and let them spread the message from their web sites. The easier you make it for your affiliates, the faster and farther your message will spread.

3. Make sure your servers can handle a “viral overload”

Just in case your viral message is extremely successful, you want to make sure your Internet hosting service can handle the load. Jib Jab received over 10 million hits in one month, which brought their hosting service to its knees. You don’t want your virus to spread so fast that it kills the host.

You also need to check on whether or not there would be any charge for a sudden increase in traffic to your web site. If your hosting service is going to send you a big bill, you need to consider that in the costs of your campaign.

Getting Your Sales Message to the Target Audience

One downside of viral marketing is that while you can drive a lot of people to see your message, not everyone is going to be interested in what you’re selling. This is why you need to tailor your message specifically to your target market. You really don’t want to drive a bunch of extra traffic to on your servers if it isn’t going to do any good (see number three above about viral overload).

Your viral marketing message should be carefully crafted from your main sales message.
The same people who would take an interest in your viral marketing message should also be interested in your sales message.

Be sure the transition from your viral marketing message to your sales message on your web site is a smooth one. You need to make sure that once a potential customer gets to your sales message that it does its job. Does your sales message convey the core benefits of your product? Is your message substantial enough to have an impact on the reader/listener/viewer?

If your potential customer doesn’t get excited about your product, then your viral message may have been wasted. Unless, perhaps, you have another product they do get excited about. If the customer does get excited about your product but your ordering system doesn’t work, you’ve also wasted your effort. This is why you want to make sure your product, sales message, and web site (including ordering systems) is working and effective before you start your viral marketing campaign.

Only when all pieces of your overall product, marketing, sales, and support systems are working well can your viral marketing campaign be a success. If all of these are working in harmony, then your bank account will also be happy.

Track The Results of Your Campaign

Just like with any other marketing campaign, you want to know how well your viral marketing is working. You can take steps to isolate your viral marketing campaign respondents from others. One way to do this would be to set up a different landing page (entry page into your site) for your viral marketing respondents and then use software tools to measure how many people are coming in to that page. You could even set up a completely different web site. You’ll also need a different order page so you can track your conversion rate (how many people who come to your landing page actually buy). Then you can compare your original customer orders with your viral marketing orders to see which ones are better performers.

Do it Over and Over

From now on, you should have an element of viral marketing in every email you sent out. Every one of your web sites should have a Tell-A-Friend script. You should continually create free e-books, articles, and reports that you allow people to pass around.

Make all your marketing campaigns viral in some aspect. Check out the example below of a way you can quickly and easily create viral marketing videos.

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