Viral marketing, an effective tool for spreading Marketing Messages

Viral Marketing is the marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message from person to person.

Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to increases in brand awareness through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of a computer virus.

It sometimes refers to Internet-based marketing campaigns, including by using blogs, amateur web sites designed to create word of mouth for a new product or service. Its goal is to generate media coverage via “offbeat” stories worth many times more than the campaigning company’s advertising budget.

It can harness the network effect of the Internet and it can be very useful in reaching a large number of people rapidly.

How to execute a viral marketing campaign most effectively? The five insights are:

  • Offer an incentive. Viral marketing works best when a tangible and valuable incentive is offered, encouraging people to forward an email message to their friends. However, marketers should cap the incentive to a specific quantity to avoid spam-like distribution of the message. Open-ended incentives, such as offering a $5 credit for every five friends referred, can end up causing a marketer customer service, financial, and privacy-related problems.
  • Continually promote friendly referrals. Marketers who need to have their messages frequently forwarded should place a viral marketing offer in every relevant outgoing email message.
  • Personalize the referral email. Response rate increases dramatically when  user can see that a message is coming from a friend. So, it is best to  personalize the email message to show that it is coming  from a recognizable source.
  • Don’t consider the referral an opt-in. When a customer refers to a friend, the  referral should not be considered an opt-in. A name and email address  volunteered by a person’s friend does not constitute an opt-in by the person, so the data must be deleted immediately after the referral email is sent. Verbiage should be included in the referral email to ask if the individual would like to receive future mailings allowing him to opt in if he wishes.
  • Track and analyze the results. Tracking the results and optimizing performance over time is absolutely necessary. Email marketers can track insightful and actionable data that can be used to evaluate performance. Very important metrics to analyze are pass-along, conversion rates and click-through. Marketers should separate the click-through and conversion rates by original customers from referrals and evaluate their respective performances.

Types of Viral Marketing:

  • Pass-along: A message which encourages the user to send the messages to others. If a large percentage of recipients forward something to a large number of friends,  the overall growth snowballs very quickly and if the pass-along numbers get too low, the overall growth quickly fizzles.
  • Incentivised viral: A reward is offered for passing a message along someone else’s address. This can dramatically increase referrals and this can be the most effective when the offer requires another person to take action.
  • Buzz marketing /Edgy Gossip messages or ads that create controversy by challenging the borders of taste or appropriateness. Discussion of the resulting controversy can be considered to generate buzz and word of mouth for advertising.
  • User-managed database: User creates and manages his own lists of contacts using a database provided by an online service provider. By inviting other members to participate in his community, user creates a viral, self-propagating chain of contacts that naturally grows and encourages others to sign up.
  • Undercover: A viral message presented as unusual or a cool page, activity or piece of news without obvious incitements to link or pass along. In Undercover Marketing, this is not immediately apparent that anything is being marketed.

So, we think Viral marketing makes for a great one-time campaign but can also be an effective tool for continuing to broaden the reach of your marketing messages over time.