Viral marketing uses communications via social networks and human relationships to grow brand awareness, through a self-replicating process – like a virus does in the body. This could be by word of mouth, via computers with SMS messages, on cell phones or through mobile communications equipment. Viral promotions in a marketing campaign include games, video clips, mp3 files, articles, text messages or images.
The aim of a marketing viral campaign is to identify and target individual consumers with who are well connected either personally or via social media such as Facebook. Viral marketing relies on people to communicate its messages to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
The hope with this type of marketing is to create a doubly positive reaction by the recipient. They will firstly forward the item, article or experience to a friend, family member or co-worker. But they will also buy into the marketing message – and ultimately purchase the product or service. The Marketing Society of the UK, is increasing discussing viral marketing with its members.
Getting someone to pass on a message relies on the quality of the viral agent and its appeal. It’s also import that the message includes a transfer mechanism, for example with a ‘Send to a friend’ button or with someway in which the email or text can be easily forwarded. People will take only seconds before deciding whether to do this or not.
Having a URL leading to a particular page in the marketer’s site, embedded in the email, for instance, is better than referring the recipient to a site.
Blogs are an essential tool in viral marketing as they encourage participation and Google increasingly searches them – faster than ever, these days. Google not only looks at who links to someone, but also the words people use to make this link.
However, it’s essential to focus the message and the call to action of a viral campaign. If a sales message is intended for young mothers in the UK does it matter if a million silver surfers in France see it? Google only likes links that are from relevant sites – it’s quality not quantity that counts here and so any viral message in a marketing campaign must take that into account.
A strong call to action or a good offer is essential for making a viral message appealing. It’s often said that “free” is the most powerful word in a marketer’s dictionary. Most viral marketing activities give away products or services that are relevant to the target audience to draw them in. These could be tickets, vouchers or software programs of a costly professional version.
Human beings are social animals – they crave contract with others. But some are more immediately social than others, depending on their disposition, their job and their role in society. A waiter, a receptionist or even a hairdresser might come into contact with hundreds of people each week.
These human networks are very important for viral marketing campaigns. People develop networks of relationships online as well. Viral marketing can be used to connect with these ongoing social groups.
After all people are more likely to believe something that is recommended by a friend rather than advertising by a large corporation – and that personal recommendation is all viral marketing is, albeit multiplied millions of times over.