You purchase an item or avail a service and you like it. So the next time you meet up with friends or family, you are bound to mention it and directly or indirectly recommend it. And after hearing your positive feedback, your friend or friends buy the product or avail the service. This way you successfully advertise the product or service through word of mouth publicity and the business gets promoted without spending a penny.
This is the very idea behind viral marketing.
What is viral marketing? Viral marketing is an advertising strategy that entices people to pass on a marketing message to their relatives and friends. It’s called viral as it is similar to the epidemic that can spread at an exponential rate, once an individual gets ‘infected’ or in this case satisfied with a product or service.
The concept itself is not very new. The idea of passing along a message has been around for a very long time, in fact for centuries. It’s just that there was no specific term to describe it till 1997, when Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist came up with the term ‘viral marketing’ to describe Hotmail‘s marketing practice then.
Hotmail‘s practice was to append an advertisement of itself on each message that was sent using their service. In case the recipient got interested and clicked on the ad, then it would lead him to the Hotmail‘s website for a sign up. This went on and the growth was similar to that of an exponential curve.
Types of viral marketing:
Pass-along viral marketing
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.
Incentivized viral marketing
It’s a marketing technique used by companies in which users are offered rewards when they refer somebody to the company. This becomes effective when the referred person takes action, only then are the rewards given.
Undercover Viral marketing
This is the most difficult viral to spot. Undercover marketing sends a viral message that is disguised as an unusual page or piece of news without obvious link citations.
Edgy gossip or buzz marketing
Buzz marketing is the most common in the entertainment world. A good example is the spread of different controversies, like getting married or divorced, involving stars of a movie that is yet to be released. This is like a word-of-mouth advertising for the movie.
How Viral Marketing Campaigns are Shared or Transferred
When people forward messages such as inspirational messages, jokes, funny clips and pictures that advertise a certain product or service.
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 many people by just posting it in on the site.
Word of mouth
Of course, word of mouth is the traditional way of passing on a message from one person to another and most of the time, the most reliable method too.
As seen above, there are ‘n’ ways to do viral marketing. But there are also inherent risks such as being labeled ‘spam’. As a lot of companies are using this method and promoting their products through email, the email providers have proactively created filters to separate potential spam from the trusted mails.
Another problem could be the size and format of the viral message. If the content is a video clip, its reach may be limited because of the size limitations of most of the email providers. Media format is another feature to be considered as not all recipients of the message may have the right application to open the file.
However, despite these constraints, businesses are already adopting viral marketing as one of the preferred marketing strategies. In fact, it is said to dramatically increase revenues by reaching out to a huge target market without having to spend a big chunk of money on advertisements. Viral marketing is bound to be quite effective, especially on the World Wide Web.
Viral marketing is spreading the word in the market like a virus. As the virus spreads form one computer to another, viral marketing is to spread the word about a product or company from one person to another. There are different kinds of viral marketing one can use. Check which suits you the most and apply it at the earliest.