Viral Marketing… to do or not to do

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What is viral marketing?

The intended result of viral marketing is word-of-mouth marketing, which is when people tell other people about the great new video on YouTube, or application on Facebook. Viral marketing is something that has been created by the company themselves to promote their products, in the hope that people who see the campaign will be so impressed that they will pass on the message to their friends and family.

Hundreds of companies, large and small, are coming up with ingenious ways to promote themselves, by posting videos on YouTube, inventing adver-games, and even employing “connector agents” who spread the buzz about a new product or sale through their own social networks. Inc. Magazine recently reported that 82 percent of the fastest-growing private companies are using these kinds of initiatives. And the beauty of it is that almost anyone can do it – it does not have to be costly. But it does have to be thought through, so do not rush off just yet.

How can it fail?! I’m off to create!

No one is denying viral marketing works. People are pleased and proud to be able to send their friends something funny, or tell them about a new product only they know about. But they are just as quick to send bad news – so make sure you get the message and the delivery right. The other thing to consider is how to turn this hoped for mass of potential consumers, into actual consumers. How do you persuade them to buy the blender? And do you even know how successful your campaign has been?

Four important tips for employing viral marketing successfully:

  • Use tactics to build awareness and trial. Be clear about what you want this campaign to accomplish, and use the most appropriate technique to achieve the goal.
  • No acquisition without identification. Knowing that your video was watched by 4 million people tells you just that. 4 million people watched your video. But you are after long-term advocacy. If you do not put the tools in place to record these customers’ details, you will never know if it had an effect on sales. Did they buy anything from you? Did they recommend your products to someone? Get their details and make sure you can track whether any of these people came back and bought from you.
  • Look beyond the transactional. Viral marketing is not loyalty marketing. Your best customers are not necessarily your best marketers, and vice versa. Even if someone has not bought from you, they may have passed on the link to your online game. Your best, top spend customers might not have a great network to promote you in. Recommendation behavior is not something you can read in a balance sheet, or in demographics. The trick is not finding these people, it is keeping them – do not let them watch the video then never hear from you again.
  • Connect your advocates to product development. A lot of companies are adopting this already – and even if you get no good suggestions, you have people feeling like they are involved, and therefore, they are brand advocates. You could even consider American Idol as an example, by using viewers to vote for their favorite singer, they have a vested interest and will be proud to buy the album of the act they voted for. By endearing the product (singer) to the viewers week in week out, and allowing the consumer a say in who wins, they guarantee advocates, and therefore sales. Dell Computer released, which allows customers to suggest new products and improvements, and received over 200,000,000 posts in 90 days. It is free research and product development. And free marketing into the bargain.

Viral marketing, buzz marketing – whatever you want to call it, is certainly here and here to stay, and it seems to be working. But before you jump in with everyone else, think long and hard about what you want to achieve, who you are targeting, and how you are going to use this new gang of groupies.


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