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Viral marketing is the wave of the future

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What Is Viral Marketing?

When you purchase an item or receive a service and you are satisfied with the results, do you often recommend that company to a friend or family member? If so, don’t they usually want to buy that product or use the same company?  Sounds a bit like popularity, in a way, that is exactly what it is.

More often than not, we express our satisfaction with some product or service by telling our friends and relatives about our pleasant experience.  Similarly when we hate something, we tend to express our displeasure with a product or service in an angry tone.

Some of our friends and family will try the product or service that we recommended and if they like it, they will also tell their friends and family. Essentially, we have just successfully advertised the product through word-of-mouth advertising without the company ever having to spend a cent for it.

This is viral marketing and it is sometimes commonly referred to as social media marketing.

Social media is a type of Internet viral marketing or online advertising strategy that entices people to pass on a marketing message to their relatives and friends via various online social media platforms and mobile devices. It is called viral marketing because of its similarity to an epidemic that easily spreads out, with an exponential growth, once an individual gets “infected” by the media hype surrounding the product or service.

How did this marketing phenomenon start?

The concept of viral marketing, which is passing along a message, has been around for a very long time. In fact, it has been around  for centuries,there was just no specific name for it. In 1997, Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist, coined the term “viral marketing” to describe Hotmail’s marketing practices which were considered viral in nature.

It did not really gain significant popularity until recently when the introduction of social media and mobile devices made this viral marketing phenomenon spread faster and farther. Viral marketing is now spread at the speed of an instant message on a global scale.

The first viral marketers like Hotmail,appended advertisements of itself on each message that it sent using their service. When a recipient became interested and clicked on the ad, it would lead to Hotmail’s website encouraging them to signup. This would go on and on, and the growth of Hotmail was similar to an exponential curve.

There are different ways to apply viral marketing strategy.

  • Pass-along. This is the most common type of viral marketing. Web sites that ask their users to tell-a-friend about their products and services is an example of pass-along messaging. However, there is a risk of the message being labeled as “spam” by email providers. Thus, it is important that the “from” and “subject” lines do not contain any word that may be tagged as spam.
  • Incentive viral. This is a marketing technique used by companies in which users are offered rewards when they refer somebody to the company. This becomes more effective when the referred person needs to take action for the reward to be given. A great example of this-the Facebook Like button.  Often companies will enroll you in a contest for simply liking their fan-page.
  • Undercover. The most difficult viral to spot, undercover marketing sends a viral message that is disguised as just an unusual page or piece of news without obvious link citations. These are not considered good marketing practices as they are often deceitful.
  • Edgy gossip or buzz marketing. This type is most common in the entertainment world. A good example of this might be the spread of different controversies, like famous people getting married or divorced, involving the stars of a movie into some bad scandal in order to advertise a movie that has yet to be released. This is like a word-of-mouth advertising for the movie.
  • Social media is the newest form of viral marketing and considered to be the most practical and honest form of advertising. It simply involves getting your brand out there in the places that people hang out in.Your brand becomes popular and the buzz about your product makes people want to have  it.The only tactics involved in this form of marketing is securing your brand and providing it with a household family name.The more social your brand is, the better it will be perceived and this perception is worth its weight in gold to a billion online users.

Spreading the viral message can be done in different ways.

  • Email. This is the most common type, when people forwards messages such as inspirational messages, jokes, funny clips and pictures that advertises a certain product or service.
  • Instant Messaging. People who receive links from friends through instant messaging servers, like Yahoo or MSN, are more likely to check them out because of who sent it.
  • Web sites. Most of the articles now published online have a link that says “Send to a friend.” This is one way to make the article reach a good number of people by just posting it in one site.
  • Word of mouth. Of course, this is the traditional way of passing on a message to another person; and most of the time, the most reliable method too.
  • Joining social media groups and platforms.

Viral marketing just makes financial sense because it is often a free or relatively cheap form of advertising. There are some small barriers to it.

One was already mentioned the risk of the email message being labeled as “spam.” A lot of companies are using this method and promoting their products through email, therefore, email providers proactively created some sort of filter in their system to separate potential spam emails from the more trusted ones – often the email is never read at all.  Irregardless, it is still free and you do reach a significant number of people nonetheless.

Videos and graphics were once hard to send in email, email carriers now allow for bigger emails to be sent and the advent of video channels such as Youtube and others have made video watching a breeze. Video channels and blogs help in dramatically increasing revenues by reaching a huge number of your target market without having to spend a big chunk of money for advertisements.  We all know that seeing is believing and the best form of advertising always has been eye catching graphics.

Video channels are free, social media is free and word of mouth is free.  Old forms of advertising costs millions of dollars and never had the impact that social media does.  Finally, advertising makes business sense.

SG partners advises you to get on the viral marketing fast track to get your business up to speed, it is here to stay and it is the advertising wave of the future.