Viral marketing or viral traffic is a result of good inbound marketing.
Create a compelling offer or content and spread the word to qualified, interested prospects.
Viral Marketing Explained
The term "viral marketing" at its basis can somewhat be offensive. Go ahead and call yourself a Viral Marketer and people may take two steps back. "Do they have a vaccine for that yet?" they wonder. A virus is a sinister thing, fraught with doom, it is not quite dead yet not fully alive.
But you have to admire the virus. He lives unaware to the host and uses its resources to increase in number until he is so numerous that he wins by sheer weight of numbers.
Viral Marketing Defined
What does a virus have to do with inbound marketing? Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to expose the message to thousands and sometimes millions.
Off the Internet, viral marketing has been referred to as word-of-mouth, but on the Internet, for better or worse, it's called viral marketing.
Example: The Classic Hotmail.com
The classic example of viral marketing is Hotmail.com, one of the first free Web-based e-mail services. The strategy is simple:
- Give away free e-mail addresses and services
- Attach a simple inbound marketing message at the bottom of every e-mail saying, "Get your private, free email at http://www.hotmail.com"
- People e-mail to their network of friends and associates
- Each person sees the message
- People sign up for their own free e-mail service, and then
- These new subscribers then propel the message still wider
This is a great example of a carefully designed viral marketing strategy that ripples outward extremely rapidly.
Elements of a Viral Marketing Strategy:
Some viral marketing strategies work better than others, and few work as well as the simple Hotmail.com strategy. Below are six basic elements that you should consider in your strategy and inbound marketing program. A viral marketing strategy does not need to contain all of these elements, but the more elements it embraces, the more powerful the results are likely to be. An effective viral marketing strategy:
- Gives away products and/or services
- Provides for effortless transfer to others
- Scales easily from small to large
- Exploits common consumer motivations and behaviors
- Utilizes existing communication networks
- Takes advantage of others' resources
Below examines each strategy more in-depth:
- Gives away valuable products or services - "Free" is the most powerful word in a marketer's vocabulary. Most viral marketing programs give away valuable products or services to attract attention. Free e-mail services, free information, free software programs, etc. This part of your inbound marketing campaign may not profit right away, but if it can generate a groundswell of interest, rest assured, you will be able to profit at some point. Patience is key here. Free attracts people. People then see other desirable things that you are selling, and, this is how you earn money. Give away something, sell something.
- Provides for effortless transfer to others - The medium that carries your marketing message must be easy to transfer and replicate. Viral marketing works famously as part of an Internet marketing plan because instant communication has become so easy and inexpensive. From a marketing standpoint, you must simplify your marketing message so it can be transmitted easily and without degradation. Short is better. The classic is: "Get your private, free email at http://www.hotmail.com." The message is compelling, compressed, and copied at the bottom of every free e-mail message.
- Scales easily from small to large - To spread like wildfire the transmission method must be rapidly scalable from small to large. The weakness of the Hotmail model is that a free e-mail service requires its own mail servers to transmit the message. If the strategy is wildly successful, mail servers must be added very quickly or the rapid growth will bog down and die. If the virus multiplies only to kill the host before spreading, nothing is accomplished. So long as you have planned ahead of time how you can add mail servers rapidly you're okay. You must build in salability to your viral model.
- Exploits common consumer motivations and behaviors - Clever viral marketing plans take advantage of common human motivations. The desire to be cool. Greed drives people. So does the hunger to be popular, loved, and understood. The resulting urge to communicate produces millions of web sites and billions of e-mail messages. Design a marketing strategy that builds on common motivations and behaviors for its transmission.
- Utilizes existing communication networks - Social scientists tell us that each person has a close network of 8 to 12 people. A person's broader network may consist of scores, hundreds, or thousands of people, depending upon their position in society. Affiliate programs and e-mail lists exploit such networks. Learn to place your message into existing communications between people, and this will rapidly multiply its dispersion.
- Takes advantage of others' resources - The most creative viral marketing plans use others' resources to get the word out. Affiliate programs, for example, place text or graphic links on others' web sites. Authors who give away free articles, seek to position their articles on others' blog or web pages. A news release can be picked up by hundreds of periodicals and form the basis of articles seen by hundreds of thousands of readers. Now someone else's newsprint or web page is relaying your marketing message. Someone else's resources are depleted rather than your own.
This is a very powerful tool that is part of a larger inbound marketing strategy and if done right can help you and your company grow by leaps and bounds. Get started today and learn how I Business Lab can help you in your next viral marketing campaign.