Start a Buzz on the Digital Grapevine - The Art of Viral Marketing

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Many marketers have at one point or another struggled to create awareness and buzz about their products or services.
At times it can be like squeezing blood out of a stone and can make marketing expensive.
The good news however, is that it doesn't have to be.
An effective weapon you can employ is online viral marketing.
An effective viral marketing campaign can be a relatively inexpensive way to reach a large number of people with your product or brand and begin building a relationship with them - as long as you get your strategy and execution right.
Traditionally viral marketing has been a product of offline channels but there are bigger opportunities for greater reach and faster spread in the online medium, something every marketer should be taking advantage of.
Viral marketing works by facilitating and encouraging people to pass along a marketing message voluntarily "through the grapevine", creating the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence.
Sharing has become a social phenomenon and it's the main reason that viral marketing works so well.
A recent study by GoViral quoted that up to 85% of people click on a link from a friend and shows the power of social interaction and community as a viral marketing tool.
To execute a successful viral marketing campaign there are some consumer motivations that you should take into consideration.
Despite diversity among today's audiences there are consistent motivations across them all:
  • Entertainment value: People love to be entertained and provided with interesting and engaging material.
    The entertainment component of your campaign catches the attention of the responder and engages them in your messages in a fun and interactive way.
  • Incentives: Incentives will drive your responders to pass the message on because of the incentive's value to them.
    Incentives don't always take monetary form and can be social or moral.
    The key is to understand your customers enough to know what it is they find valuable.
  • Self Expression: Individuality is cherished by today's audiences and anything that allows them to express who they are and what they believe has a good chance of engaging them.
A recent example of a very successful online viral marketing campaign is the initiative of Barack Obama's election campaign which generated awareness and in addition raised nearly $200 Million.
What made it really effective was the clever way in which his team leveraged the interactive power of every high traffic social networking site to generate a sense of community amongst his supporters and to recruit new ones by creating a buzz.
Other great campaigns include BelieveInDestiny and Dove Evolution, both of which are a completely unaided viral campaigns but still managed to generate millions of views and proves the power of the community and social networking to grow awareness and spread information about consumer branded products.
The internet is full of digital channels that can be used to run a successful viral marketing campaign.
Among thousands of forums and social networking sites that your campaign can be pushed through there is also the simple email.
Email allows your message to quite simply be sent to thousands of people with the click of a button, which grows exponentially with every referral of your message.
Permission Communications used the power of email to drive the viral marketing campaign for Kleenex Flushable Fresh Wipes by driving recipients to a website to watch a humorous video using 'toilet humor".
Viewers were encouraged to share in the humor with friends and had the chance to win a range of prizes by forwarding the video.
The campaign successfully increased database registrations and raised awareness of the new product.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are vehicles of social communication where friends and families communicate and share experiences including their thoughts about your products.
They also offer the facility for users to share information with friends and family very simply and quickly.
Measuring the success of a viral campaign can sometimes be a challenge especially when the transfer platform is the simple personal interaction with others.
However, when you are investing heavily into a campaign you want to know if you are getting a good return and that makes metrics critically important.
Building your viral campaign on a measurable platform, such as a self contained email referral page, not only makes it easier for responders to refer quickly but it also enables you to track the activity of your campaign responders through the system.
For example, tracking how many people referred your email on to others and how many of those then went to your website to learn more about your products and services.
There is certainly a benefit to online viral marketing and building relationships through this cost effective medium.
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