Busting the myth on Viral Marketing – Strategic or Accidental?

Ok, so I’m not usually a Wikipedia user, but I do like the definition they provided on viral marketing (VM), which by the way is also referred to as viral advertising, or marketing buzz. VM refers to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networking services and other technologies to try to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales). Said another way by PracticalEcommerce.com, viral marketing is a business strategy that uses existing social networks to promote a product. Its name refers to how consumers spread information about a product with other people in their social networks, much in the same way that a virus spreads from one person to another.

Who uses viral marketing?

Marketing schools.org notes that viral marketing is useful as a stand-alone marketing tool or as a part of a larger campaign that uses multiple kinds of marketing. It is especially attractive to smaller businesses or companies because viral marketing can be a cheaper alternative to traditional marketing efforts. Once a company knows what its target demographic wants and how they communicate, they begin creating content those people will want to share.

Of course, this is not to be confused with social marketing campaigns that happen to go viral because something in a video or print ad has had an unusually appealing effect on viewers, causing mass sharing across social media platforms. The blog site Social Times defines this as; the brand losing control of message distribution, yet messages remain intact. No. Viral marketing is strategic, systematic and requires careful planning and a team with a diverse range of skills in new media technology, creativity, and communications.

PracticalEcommerce.com lists six elements that an effective viral marketing strategy should include.

  1. Gives away products or services – Free products, free download free trial never fail.
  2. Provides for effortless transfer to others – Effortlessly convert and transfer from one platform to another.
  3. Scales easily from small to very large –
  4. Exploits common motivations and behaviors – desire to be cool. Greed drives people. So does the hunger to be popular, loved, and understood.
  5. Utilizes existing communication networks – Learn to place your message into existing communications between people, and you rapidly multiply its dispersion.
  6. Takes advantage of others’ resources – The most creative viral marketing plans use others’ resources to get the word out. Affiliate programs, for example, place text or graphic links on others’ websites.
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