Although viral marketing derives its nomenclature from the speed at which a virus ignited epidemic begins and spreads, this is the only negative connotation to one of the Internet’s and the World Wide Web’s fastest growing marketing approaches.
Viral marketing draws from the same strength as the Internet itself draws from: the network of people, computers, and other devices across the world. This network it utilizes in order to extend the reach of a message or a campaign from person to person by word of mouth, as well as by these same people using other means of communication such as email, text messaging, social media chats, messengers, and perhaps one day soon, smoke signals.
This ingenious type of campaign first got its name from the book ‘Media Virus’, published in 1994 by Douglas Rushkoff , an American media critic, and has for a numer of years become one of the hottest trends in the dynamic world of online, Internet fueled marketing. The rise in popularity of video sharing platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms, which promote the sharing of different types of content have in no small measure contributed to the rise and rise of the viral system of marketing.
Although utilizing this type of marketing technique has its drawbacks, the sheer and overwhelming success of a hit viral campaign makes it constantly sought out by companies and individuals across the World Wide Web and the Internet.
While an event or video or any other web content may inexplicably go “viral” with all the attendant and often welcome side attractions, such an outcome may also be achieved through a methodical and easy to repeat modus operandi. While results are difficult to accurately predict, the following encapsulates the processes, nature and challenges one would encounter in the course of a viral marketing drive or campaign:
THE TOOLS OF VIRAL MARKETING
Like any other marketing effort, whether online or presented using more traditional means, viral advertising ventures must rely on certain tools, and have certain characteristics to work. This include in short order:
The message, which can take any form but is usually contrived through the use of a visual medium like an image, graphics, or video. Aural components such as sound or music also are suitable for viral messaging. While videos, images and music seem to lend themselves more readily to the viral trend, purely text based content such as a chat or emails have also responded well to viral marketing. The message so dispersed must be of such a nature that it is attention grabbing, provocative or attractive, and easy to spread or share.
The messenger is also an important rung in the ladder of achieving viral status. Many times brands will associate themselves with a key “Influencer” or a person with a large online following or social networking potential (SNP), thus leveraging on that person’s visibility to push the message so it reaches further.
Environment also plays a vital role in advancing and dispersing the viral message. Social media via the power of the World Wide Web has become a natural ecosystem for the kind of quick and speedy distribution necessary for viral marketing. Platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, because of their volume in users and ease of content sharing, have become indispensible tools to achieve a successful viral advertising campaign. These platforms act as force multipliers, helping the message to achieve viral status faster.
OPTIMAL CONTENT FOR VIRAL MARKETING
Viral marketing tends to embrace content that is brief, easily understood, easily shared and unique in some respect. Thus businesses that seek “virality” must take the pains to come up with truly out of this world content. This however does not automatically indicate great expense, as simple and low budget content has done as well as content procured at the cost of millions. Viral content may take the form of videos, games, chats and other text, music, and graphics or other images.
NEED FOR VIRAL MARKETING
There are no hard rules for when to deploy a viral marketing technique, however many businesses have found that viral promotions tend to reach a customer base much quicker in the event of a product launch, or a promotion of an already existing brand. This method may also be used when time is a factor as it is geared to spread a message in a speedy manner over a wide area.
WHAT IT ACCOMPLISHES
This marketing approach spreads a message rapidly over an extensive area at possibly, but not always, lower costs to the original messenger. Due to the fact that viral status most times takes the semblance of News, there is a strong possibility of its being picked up by traditional News outlets such as Television, Radio, and the print media. This thus aids in achieving rapid spread and visibility at no extra cost to the original messenger or advertiser.
A CHECKLIST ON HOW TO PLAN AND EXECUTE VIRAL MARKETING
In planning your viral marketing campaign, a few things to keep in mind are:
Ability to create attractive content. The more attention grabbing the content is the better. Viral advertising works best with content that is newsworthy. Usually the less every-day that content is the more the possibility of it getting “legs” and really spreading.
Content earmarked for this marketing technique must possess certain characteristics. These include:
Ease of Sharing: Content so deployed must typically be easy to share. If they are video files, the size must be reasonable and on the small side. A good codec can achieve this usually.
Brevity and Simplicity are key to content that is designed to be shared by a vast majority of online users. Technical jargon is to be avoided wherever possible.
Easy to explain or describe via word of mouth: If your content is not easily described or explained, then it might not be optimal for viral advertising techniques.
Relatable to most people: People across geographical divides and cultural dispensations must find something in your content that speaks to their unique experiences, life, or world views. Therefore it is safer when creating such content to stick with universal themes, such as happiness, family, and such like.
Must appeal to a broad audience: Content designed for viral marketing must be broad based and should appeal to a mainstream diversified audience. Take into account that online campaigns are viewed by people of different races and ethnicities all over the world. Efforts must be made to overcome the barriers set up by language, customs and traditions. A sharp eye must also be kept on not giving offence to any one region or ethnicity.
In creating the above content, you must take note of the reason online content generally achieves viral status. These are:
Social Capital: People will usually share something that makes them vicariously trendy, or smart, or more informed.
Catalysts or Triggers: Subjects that are currently hot or are getting a lot of attention in the public space can be leveraged to achieve virality for your content. This can be done by ingeniously finding a common factor and tying it to your campaign.
Emotional Appeal: Most people will pass along a message in which they are invested emotionally. You must note however that there is a thin line between appealing to a person’s emotions and deliberately manipulating that emotion. The first is marketing, the last is propaganda.
Public visibility: The more visible you can make your campaign, then the more likely that people will see it and talk about it. The Music industry frequently uses a variation of this by giving massive airplay on radio to a new song, in order to make it quickly popular.
Practical Value: Folks will usually pass along knowledge that they found to be of practical help to themselves. Usually friends and neighbors who can benefit from this information will be so informed.
Stories and Movies: Just like in the Greek fable, Trojan Horse stories, movies, games, or whatnots can carry messages hidden in themselves. When using this, one must be careful so the customer or viewer does not feel hoodwinked or deceived.
3. Choosing the right platform, tool, influencer, and even time to kick off your marketing efforts are all decisions to be made after much research and thought. An incongruous platform or an Influencer who does not readily fit the brand, or who for some reason has lost a little or a lot of his influence, even in a particular demographic, can usher in unpredictable fall outs.
STEP BY STEP OF A VIRAL MARKETING PLAN
Choose the product or brand to market.
Build innovative content around that product or brand.
“Seed” the content, or launch it.
Get an influencer talking about it.
Launch the campaign on Social Media, providing all relevant links including influencer’s comments, and other testimonials. You may also use emails and other marketing techniques to push it.
As much as you can keep tabs on the campaign
Add a little pep anytime the campaign looks like lagging.
HIT OR MISS: DISADVANTAGES OF VIRAL MARKETING
LOSS OF CONTROL
Once a campaign is launched, it more or less leaves the direct control of the message sender. Control is then passed into the hands of the users who form a part of the environment of the message. It is almost impossible to stop or delay the further dissemination of a message which has gone viral. Also, though some messages may not be good for specific regions or areas, the original sender may find it a herculean task to halt the spread of the message to such areas.
DANGERS OF MISINTERPRETATION
Messages using this technique may quickly become very popular, and thus lend themselves more readily to being parodied or otherwise distorted. Variations of past viral campaigns have emerged subsequently, many of which play on the original phrasing or content to arrive at an entirely different meaning. This may well result in animosity against the original sender from some quarters, and may ultimately hurt the brand or image of the business.
Social media is the best environment for this type of technique. This environment is of course naturally volatile and prone to sudden and frequent upheavals and change. A tried and trusted method may not enjoy the same level of acceptability and success the second time around, leading to a lack luster performance.
Viral marketing efforts are also often difficult to put a number to. Due to the rapid and ever expanding reach of a good and successful campaign, it is not always possible to accurately tell just how big a hit the drive was. This can sometimes be a major challenge when such statistics are required for a report or something similar.
HIT OR MISS: ADVANTAGES OF VIRAL MARKETING
Viral Marketing, after the initial “seeding” or first push, runs on the steam and dollars of the Social Media environment, and is therefore significantly cheaper than paid advertisement. The campaign is advanced and forwarded by the joint resources of the citizens of the World Wide Web.
Once the drive has achieved viral status, the range of its reach often takes an exponential curve. Campaigns which have gone viral can typically reach hundreds of millions in a short time. Many times this range overturns barriers usually set by national boundaries, local customs, and language.
Due to the fact that good viral marketing relies on the band wagon effect, users are given little time for critical thinking before they jump on the said wagon. This spontaneous conversion circumvents the usual analytical period a user will normally allow for before choosing a brand. Thus it gets brand patronage in a much shorter time, and such patronage when managed well can transform to brand loyalty.
EXAMPLES OF VIRAL MARKETING
Hotmail successfully utilized viral marketing techniques in the past. The e-mail service provider inserted the line “Get your free e-mail at Hotmail” at the bottom of each e-mail sent out by its millions of users.
AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS (ALS) ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE
The A.L.S. Ice Bucket Challenge became one of the most effective viral marketing drives in the world. Fashioned to promote the campaign against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, many celebrities including Justin Bieber, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates became part of an estimated 2 million plus people who posted videos featuring pouring a bucket of ice water on their heads and afterward nominating the next person.
Viral Marketing is a technique, which when planned strategically and executed efficiently, can see that product or brand of yours well on its way in a very short time. The competitiveness of the digital space calls for more and more innovation if businesses are to maintain market share and relevance.
At Romdale Marketing Services we take care to stay in touch with the latest initiatives in online marketing and advertising, and would be delighted in formulating a unique strategy for your business which follows the phenomenal Viral Marketing technique.
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