Viral Marketing

Dark Knight:

Blair Witch Project


Viral marketing is any type of marketing that relies on word-of-mouth in order to succeed. Basically, the goal of the campaign is to induce people to pass on the marketing message to one another, creating a potentially exponential growth in the message’s visibility and impact. The ads or materials are designed to be passed easily along existing social networks in order to cover the widest swath of people possible. If well done, it can have a long-term positive effects on your customers.

Viral marketing can also work by using others’ resources to spread a marketing message in other ways–attach an ad to a free product and let people do the work for you. Unfortunately, getting these campaigns off the ground is hard work and can take a long time. They can also be expensive: you need to produce your free product, flyers, emails, etc.

What makes a viral campaign truly successful is if it has the ability to be transformed, repurposed, or distorted as they pass from hand to hand.

An effective viral marketing strategy consists of the following tactics:

  • Distributing products or services for free. When you offer a service or product for free, you garner attention much faster then if you don’t. Viral marketers practice delayed gratification: they may not profit today or tomorrow but if they can generate a groundswell of interest from something free, they know they will profit soon.
  • Allowing the aforementioned products or services to be transferred to others. The medium that carries your marketing message must be easy to transfer and to replicate: email, website, graphic, software download, etc.
  • Allowing effortless scaling up from small to large. If you are really serious about a viral message, be preapered to handle exponential demand.
  • Exploiting common motivations like desire to win or be popular to spread the message. Greed drives people. The desire to be cool drives people. Exploit these basic motivations and you may have something with legs.
  • Utilizing existing communication networks – Internet, phones, word-of-mouth.
  • Utilizing others’ resources to spread the word. Make sure that it is easy for others to evangelize for you through their own websites and emails.

Ways to Create a Successful Viral Campaign

  • Make it super-easy and attractive for people to share your site with others. Have a “Share with a friend” form which allows visitors to email the page. Ideally, you should promise that their friend’s email address won’t be reatained.
  • Your free item should be somehow related to your product or service.
  • Keep the marketing speak at bay. The idea of viral marketing is to attract people to your website because of genuinely attractive content or free stuff. People will quickly get wise to biased articles that keep mentioning your product.
  • Remember, though, to in some way include some sort of reminder about the source in your free products. Include a link to your site, and maybe a small logo. Remind people to take a look at what else you have to offer.
  • Build in scalability in your viral model: plan ahead of time to be able to take care of exponential demand.

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