Viral marketing The Concept

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Viral marketing is a fantastic marketing technique that taps into social networks to spread your marketing message far and wide. Although the name ‘viral’ conjures up all sorts of unpleasant images of nasty infections, the name has stuck, probably because it so aptly describes how effective the method is – your message is literally spread like a virus. I like to call it the Domino Effect.

Start with just a few emails and then, like a virulent epidemic, they will spread like wildfire through a network of social contacts, reaching hundreds, thousands and millions of people – all potential customers!

Actually, viral messages are nothing new – they have evolved from old fashioned marketing via word of mouth and even the early pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing methods, used by companies such as Amway, were examples of viral marketing that relied on social networks to spread the marketing message.

There have been many examples of successful viral marketing – including the classic free email service from Hotmail, the album Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails, Dynamic Surfing (Quicksilver), Cadbury’s gorilla advert, Nike’s touch of gold advert and Burger King with their Subservient Chicken campaign. Many of these viral marketing campaigns reached millions of potential customers within days and have gone on to run successfully for several years and, more importantly, have made millions!

With the advent of the Internet, email can deliver your message with phenomenal speed and mind-boggling efficiency – practically free!

Important components

Like a line of dominoes, you have to create the right conditions for them to fall one by one – when these conditions are right and your dominoes are aligned correctly, you could rapidly topple hundreds or even thousands of them. In the same way, you have to create the perfect conditions and introduce the right components into your viral marketing campaign to ensure your message is passed on. So what are these important components?

·         Easy to pass on: People don’t like to be inconvenienced, especially in the instant world of the Internet. A simple click of a button to forward an email message is all that should be expected of your prospective customers if you want your message to be passed on.

·         Gives something of value away for free: The truth is that the vast majority of Internet users are looking for something for free, whether it is information or a free product, or even just a great money saving offer such as a generous money-off voucher. Find something relevant to your product or range of products that you can give away – in the past, traditional businesses called this the ‘loss leader’. It’s nothing new and is a tried and tested method that has been adapted for the Internet. Just make sure it is something of value, if you want to beat your competitors!

·         Exploits human psychology: It is important to understand what it is that motivates people to pass on your message. There are several factors that compel people to share something and your message has to include them or it will simply be deleted. We will discuss these factors a little later.

·         You can actually deliver the goods: You also have to ensure that you have access to enough products or can provide service for large numbers of customers if your campaign is successful – you don’t want to run out of widgets just as a mammoth number of orders come in. Even with a downloadable product, which can potentially supply an infinite number of customers, you have to make sure your server can handle a surge in demand or your site could crash.

Could it really work?

Absolutely, and there are plenty of success stories out there proving that viral marketing can and does actually work. It’s not really a new phenomenon but the speed and efficiency of the Internet has catapulted viral marketing into a whole new league – now we can reach millions of Internet users around the world in a matter of days.
The real trick, if you are using viral emails, is to get your messages read and spread and not deleted before they are even opened. Believe me, once you get the recipe right and include all the right components – the Domino Effect really works!