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Viral Marketing

What is Viral Marketing?

Viral Marketing is the term used to describe the method of Online Marketing which encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others. This creates the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence. Viral Marketing has an offline equivalent, often referred to as ‘word-of-mouth marketing' or ‘network marketing'.

Viral Marketing is fast becoming a trend amongst marketers due to developments and influence of social and technological factors. Communicating online has become a highly popular method for staying in touch with others. Due to the accessibility and convenience of the internet and the communication vehicles it offers, such as email, instant messenger and social networking, people are choosing to communicate online as an alternative to face-to-face or telephone. The online consumer is well connected. Hence how Viral Marketing has surfaced. Viral Marketing depends on the natural propensity of an online consumer to forward something they see of value on to their network of contacts.

The theory of a successful Viral Marketing campaign is that the original recipients of the message will in turn forward it on to their network of contacts, who will in turn forward it on to their network of contacts, and so forth. Each of these levels of recipients is commonly referred to as a ‘layer. When a message is passed from one layer to another, it is referred to as a ‘viral transmission'. When the message is transmitted through enough layers, the exposure of a viral message can become massive. This is often known as the ‘viral spread' of a message.

Successful Viral Marketing

Why would a consumer pass on a viral message?

The key to successful Viral Marketing is to tweak your Online Marketing message to be one that has intrinsic value to the consumer. When one consumer sees this value, research shows they are likely to forward it on to their network of contacts. Online consumers tend to forward these messages for a variety of reasons, but all of them stem back to the fact that the consumer believes your Viral Marketing message has an intrinsic value that they wish to share with others.

What constitutes value to an online consumer?

This is one of the key questions in Viral Marketing. Many characteristics can represent value. Humorous, entertaining, good value for money, educational, meaningful, and the list goes on. These are all reasons an online consumer may forward a Viral Marketing message to their network of contacts.

Often, there is a fine line between creating a successful Viral Marketing campaign and a failed Viral Marketing campaign. Many Viral Marketing campaigns fail because the value that is supposed to be drawn from the message simply fails to inspire the consumer to pass it on. Offering value in a viral message is a fine art. It takes an understanding of not only online consumers and their needs, desires and expectations, but also of available technologies, current trends, competitor offerings and so on.

The difficulty of implementing a successful Viral Marketing message is compounded by the fickle nature of consumers, particularly that of online consumers. What is in fashion and creates huge hype one day can just as quickly become boring the next. The expertise in Viral Marketing comes from an ability to develop a viral message that will remain valuable to a consumer long enough for that message to be virally transmitted through enough layers to reach the desired number of recipients.

How can viral transmission be encouraged?

There are several ways in which viral transmission can be encouraged. The best is providing a message with intrinsic value, as discussed above. However, this is not the only measure that should be taken. The viral message must be passed through an appropriate ‘channel'. Channels are basically the medium used to transmit the message. A few examples might be E-mail, Instant Messaging Services, Mobile Phone Applications, Social Web 2.0 Networks and straight through a website. There are in fact several potential channels through which a message can be virally transmitted.

The key to encouraging transmission through any of the above channels is the ease at which the viral message can be transmitted. The less effort that the online consumer needs to put into transmitting the viral message, the more likely they are to do so. An online consumer requires simple options built into the message to transmit it virally, a hyperlink with “email to a friend” at the top of the page, for example, would do the trick. Whether it's by email, through sharing on social networks, or any of the aforementioned channels, the more options the online consumer has the better.

What's an example of a successful Viral Marketing Campaign?

One of the best recent examples of a Viral Marketing campaign is “Will it Blend” by online blender seller, Blendtec. In this campaign, the marketers have chosen to use YouTube as the channel through which the viral message is transmitted. Popular consumer items that are regularly searched for, such as iPod, iPhone, Golf Balls, and a Chuck Norris figurine, etc, are utilised in the viral video messages. The owner of the company proceeds to blend these items in his Blendtec blender. Due to the unique, comedic nature of the message, the campaign has gained a huge viral spread. Eleven of the “Will It Blend” videos have been viewed by over 1,000,000 people, not to mention the hundreds of thousands who have viewed other “Will It Blend” videos. The result for Blendtec's online sales has been astronomical, with 750% growth over the first few months of the Viral Marketing campaign.

The Key to the success of this campaign is three fold. Firstly, the choice of YouTube as the viral channel allows for easy transmission, a ‘share' button easily allows viewers to pass on links and HTML to embed on other pages allows for greater spread. YouTube is also a very popular video hosting site, maximising the number of potential viewers. There is also a subscribe feature and a feedback forum, also useful Viral Marketing tools. The second key element is in the use of popular consumer items. Such items are highly searched for on search engines, and in YouTube itself. This again ensures maximum exposure for the viral message. The third element that was paramount to this campaign is the use of a unique and comedic event, i.e. blending consumer items, to show the power of the Blendtec blenders. Such a message has an intrinsic value to the consumer, a wow-factor that compels the consumer to transmit the viral message to his or her network of contacts.

So what is the value of Viral Marketing to a business?

As is evident in the above Viral Marketing example, a successful Viral Marketing campaign can be of huge impact to a business' bottom line. Research shows that consumers believe the word of their associates above and beyond that of a company's marketing message. Therefore, when a consumer receives a viral message from their contact network, they are more motivated to act upon it. As long as the invoked reaction to a viral message is positive, this can have huge repercussions for your business. If consumers find your viral message humorous, it will have a positive spin off for your company's image as the message will bring a smile to consumers, in turn putting them in a happy mood, the most responsive of all brand associations. If the message recipient sees good value for money in your offering, they are more likely to purchase and tell their friends about it. The connotations are endless.

Well, how is a good Viral Marketing campaign undertaken?

From time to time, people come up with a great Viral Marketing campaign. However, this is mostly an unsuccessful game. A Viral Marketing campaign is best planned and implemented with the help of Online Marketing professionals. Experienced Online Marketing professionals better understand what makes the online consumer tick, have a stronger grasp on the types of technology available, and are able to pool more resources on your behalf. Involving Online Marketing specialists is the best way to maximise your chance of Viral Marketing success.

Contact Us to discuss how Exa can help. With around 200 staff members, each with extensive Online Marketing experience, will take the time to derive the best Online Marketing plan for you. Your Online Marketing plan will fulfil all your Online Marketing needs. Exa will work closely with you on the creative side to ensure your Viral Marketing campaign is as successful as possible.

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