Viral marketing is a marketing tactic that depends on people instead of the usual promotional campaigns to relay information to others. This strategy is normally used by internet marketers to promote their products or services. Like the biological virus where the term was derived, viral marketing relies on “carriers” to transmit the message quickly.
The Goal of Viral Marketing
The primary goal of viral marketing is to spur people to pass along promotional messages or advertising to others. These people essentially become product promoters, passing marketing information to others who, in turn, will spread the message to other individuals – all done for free!
Viral marketing first got noticed when email provider Hotmail.com used it in their marketing campaign. When the company went live online, each email message sent carried an ad for Hotmail along with a link to its website. As individuals were sending emails to relatives and friends, they were also sending out messages that promote the email service. After clicking on the link, recipients can easily sign up for a Hotmail account, and as they send out messages using their new account, the advertisement spreads throughout the world in a short time with very little effort from the email provider.
This illustration shows how the primary elements of viral marketing are put into play. The advertising cost is negligible. It uses common tasks to its advantage, such as sending emails. It capitalizes on existing resources, people in particular, to boost their products or services. Without being aware of it, each individual who uses the product becomes its endorser or spokesperson.
When a company goes viral on their ad campaign, their brand gets recognized and their sales go up, resulting in a better payday. The main goal is to send out viral messages that can be passed along rapidly from person to person without investing a lot of time, money and effort.
The Tools of Viral Marketing
Viral marketing takes advantage of existing communications channels such as radio and television. Other strategies ride on blogs, banner ads, as well as social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Hotmail, in its case, used endorsement from other people. The biggest thing about going viral is that it can spread the message like wildfire to more people than traditional advertising.
While there are various strains of viral marketing, they all use the same basic principles.
• Incentive-driven opt-in pages offer free items for providing an email address
• Pass-along messages can come in the form of interesting emails and funny video clips which people share and forward to others
• Buzz marketing or gossip creates controversies about something which get people to start talking
• Undercover viral marketing is spawned by strange or false news items and spread by word-of-mouth
Transmitting the Virus
Like an uncontrolled epidemic, many individuals have used viral marketing effectively by transmitting their message within Facebook and other social networking sites. It is a great leap forward from the word-of-mouth concept as it uses the power of lightning-fast Internet to get the message out.
Viral marketing has recently been in the crosshairs of consumers, marketing experts and privacy rights defenders due to spam emails. However, those who have mastered the game use this strategy prudently to avoid drawing fire and ensure that the message will travel far, wide and fast.