Viral Marketing is any marketing technique that induces websites or users to pass on a marketing message to other sites or users, creating a potentially exponential growth in the message’s visibility and effect. A popular example of successful viral marketing is Hotmail, a company now owned by Microsoft, that promoted its services and its own advertisers’ messages in every user’s email notes.
Types of viral marketing techniques
There are three criteria for basic viral marketing; the messenger, the message and the environment. All three must be effectively executed in order for a viral message to be successful.
Some techniques for effective marketing include targeting the appropriate audience and channels, creating videos, offering a valuable service or product for free, creating an emotional appeal, social outreach and enabling easy sharing and downloading.
Who uses it
Viral marketing can be effective as a stand-alone tool or as part of a larger marketing campaign. It can be used by both large and small companies, but can be especially attractive to smaller business, as it can be more cost-effective than traditional marketing efforts.
Viral marketing has been used by energy drink companies, movies and even political campaigns to generate marketing buzz.
Viral marketing is the goal of many companies looking to leverage the social media space to promote their products. Defined as piece of content generated by a person or business that inspires consumers to eagerly share it with their expanded social circle, viral marketing can help build brand recognition instantly — but is easier said than done.
Viral marketing can be important in launching a new product by getting your brand in front of a large potential market quickly. A YouTube video costs a fraction as much as a TV commercial, but if it inspires people to share your message it can have a major impact on brand recognition. Kraft, for example, used viral marketing to successfully launch its MiO brand of liquid water enhancer. Twitter and Facebook are among the other social media tools that allow users to share content, and are useful in attracting attention.
Make It Easy
A viral campaign isn’t the place to tell your audience every single detail of your product or service, even if it’s their first exposure to what you’re selling. Instead, it should generate a reaction quickly and easily, such as laughter, surprise or shock. If you already have a strong online presence, seed it with your biggest fans first to get them to spread the word for you. It’s not an ideal marketing strategy to just post your product’s viral marketing video on YouTube and hope for the best. Consider placing ads linking to the video on search engines, with the ads appearing when users search terms relating to your product, such as “stain removal” for a dry-cleaning service.
Get Their Attention
Companies can be tempted to make the new product’s attributes the centerpiece of a viral marketing effort, but if that’s the star of the show it usually falls flat. Before you design your campaign, assess what causes you to click on a video or forward a link, and ask those in your company or social circle with experience in social media for their thoughts. Would you click on a video because it promised to be the best tongue cleaner on the market? Probably not. But Orabrush found success with viral marketing by making the star of the show a giant human tongue that did things like compete against little league football players on YouTube.
It’s important to build in metrics to let you know if your campaign is going viral, and if it’s having the desired effect on brand awareness. Views, likes, re-tweets and other basic measures are a start, but find ways to expand that to something more meaningful to your campaign goals. Perhaps offer a free sample of your product as part of the campaign, and measure how many fill out the form to request the free sample. Or have the clicks take users to a landing page on your own site and measure how many engage there as well.
The biggest risk isn’t the possibility that a campaign will fall flat, but the loss of control that a viral marketing campaign necessitates. When customers pass along your viral marketing efforts, they do so on their terms, not yours. You might turn off customers as well as win them — but you also may find your users see selling points that you never thought of.