The Net Success Blog
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Viral marketing is much the same as a virus. A virus is something that invades your body and spreads rapidly once you come into contact with someone who has the virus. A viral marketing campaign is something that invades people’s mind’s spreading the central idea or thought contagiously on individuals when they come into contact with the promotional medium, and continues as individuals spread the message to their peers and fellow reference groups via word-of-mouth advertising.
Although viral promotional campaigns come in all shapes and sizes, the key ingredients and foundational concepts remain relatively the same. Creating a buzz around an advert involves developing relevancy. Target markets, particularly those that are reached online are only interested in promotions that are pertinent to their needs. Simply banner blindness is an example of this.
Viral marketing allows a level playing field. In fact aside from corporations, ordinary people are creating viral videos that allow them to get in front of a worldwide audience for only a matter of dollars. The now famous ‘thelonelyplanet’ went from a small YouTube cult status to international recording artist through their humorous and topical music videos. The point being, with the right approach and a bit of luck, there is nothing stopping a small business from achieving the same success around their brand.
Here are the 5 key elements that make an online viral marketing campaign a success:
1. They aren’t ‘selly’ – a promotional campaign turns viral through other people proactively sharing the message with others. If a promotional message is seen as ‘selly’ in any shape or form then it’s going to drastically reduce the likelihood of a person sharing it with their friends, or better put their ‘reference groups.’ Messages that are ‘selly’ are rarely innovative, interesting, humorous, questioning, and certainly don’t have the ‘wow’ factor, and therefore won’t be shared with others. At least not in a positive manner…
Note: This does not mean you can’t integrate an indirect promotion through your viral campaigns – take for example ‘willitblend’ by Blendtec on YouTube. They blend interesting and topical objects and in doing so promote the use of their blenders as professional, quality blenders, without needing to ask their audience to buy their blenders.
2. Controversial or goes against the ‘status quo’ – Take for example StillFree.com in which the brand was able to create a controversial hoax that spread to millions of people worldwide within weeks of launch. The hoax if you don’t already know was tagging the Air Force One jet plane and gave the brand worldwide recognition.
When controversy and originality come together, they create a powerful message that people see as worth sharing with others.
3. Humorous – Laughter is arguably the single greatest quality a promotional message should have if it is to go viral. Whether it’s an email chain message with funny pictures, a funny video about a baby, or ongoing cliché Facebook fan page names. Random and original content always wins when it’s humorous. In the case of the Facebook Fan Page examples, revisiting an old idea with a new, interesting and funny twist is always a recipe for success.
4. Relevancy – online relevancy is king. Without it no one will care what you are talking about, and you’ll be playing by the old cliché of “selling ice to eskimo’s”. There are 2 points to relevancy that you must consider. First your message must be relevant to your brand, product or service (or at least tied back to your product or service in some way). Without this people will not be able to see a link between the viral video and your brand.
A viral campaign that does not produce more sales, leads or brand recognition is as about as useful as an untargeted online sales promotion. Therefore make sure you create this link between message and your brand.
Secondly your message must contain relevancy to the target market that you are promoting the campaign to. Without such relevancy no one in your target market will pay attention, and although your brand recognition might increase you won’t produce any sales as you are promoting it to the wrong target market. A simple question you must ask yourself before creating any promotional material online is, “would our target market be interested in this, and will they want to share this with their friends?”
5. Advertising or other means of creating traction – particularly for a large organisation with a large budget advertising your viral campaign could be the easiest method to ensure traction of the message and the subsequent spreading of the brand’s message. A great method to achieve this is to promote an online message via offline methods, including print, TV and radio. Take for example Cadbury’s highly successful offline/online viral campaign.
However even if you are a small business with a small marketing budget, there are still means of spreading your message out there in hope of gaining viral traction. Here are some quick suggestions:
- Promote it through your existing network – for example your customer/client database.
- Promote it via social networking – e.g. your Facebook Fan Page via a status update
- Promote it through email marketing – send out a broadcast of the new campaign, and proactively ask your subscribers to forward it on to their friends through email or social networking if they enjoyed it (hopefully they did, or you shouldn’t be sending it out to them in the first place!)
- Promote it through your store front and ask people to check it out online (this is a good way to gain more Facebook Fans if you ask them to check it out on your Facebook Page).
- Incentivised ‘tell-a-friend’ website scripts. You could provide a free incentive if people share your promotional message with others online via email or social media. Here’s a free script you can use. However it might be worth investing in a paid ‘tell-a-friend’ script for added functionality and security.
The great thing about viral marketing is once it gains traction and starts to hit critical mass, there isn’t anything that can stop it. It’s a pandemic of promotional power. And with the somewhat level playing field that online marketing presents it’s a promotional tool that every business should look at undertaking.