Viral marketing: from idea to virus

Traditional marketing usually pays little attention to a broad target audience in the hope to attain more customers. Viral marketing, on the other hand, is paying special attention to a limited target audience in the hope these customers will attract other customers. Simple and amazingly efficient.

Viral Marketing: Inspire and conquer

What would you do if you had to promote a new Harry Potter theme park? Spend a large marketing budget on PR and commercials on TV, radio and internet? Or would you invite 7 people to spread the news via social media?

Lincelot - 1 person made it happen that 7 people made sure that 350 million people where excited about a new Harry Potter Themepark In 2008 Cindy Gordon, vice president of new media and marketing partnerships at Universal Orlando Resort, chose to invite seven Harry Potter fans to join in a secret webcast. These 7 fans were chosen carefully: they had a big influence on major Harry Potter fan sites and a wide reach on other social media.

During the webcast 7 fans were informed about the park. They also got the address of a mini website with additional information. After the webcast the fans immediately shared the news with their fans, friends and followers on the web. The result was phenomenal. The news spread like a virus on the internet.

Gordon estimates that eventually 350 million people were informed about the new theme park. And this by inviting only 7 people to a webcast. An incredible return on investment!

Viral Marketing: Share and let others share

Seth Godin - Unleashing the Ideavirus - Virale Marketing avant la lettre The key to a successful viral marketing campaign is deceptively simple: inspire, share and let others share. Make sure you have an exciting message, share this with a carefully chosen target audience and make sure these people can easily share your message with their family, friends, fans and followers. This way your message will be spread virally on the web.

Viral marketing: Call on the right people

The concept of an idea virus is not new. Already in 2000 Seth Godin wrote a free e-book with the title ‘Unleashing the Ideavirus’. In this book Godin describes the use of sneezers to spread your ideas for you. If you ‘contaminate’ these sneezers with your idea and if they are able to easily spread this idea, then you will quickly and efficiently reach a wide target audience.

The proof of the pudding? In the video below Godin explains how he shared Unleashing the Ideavirus for free on the internet with the explicit request to spread the book. A few weeks after the launch of the e-book, Godin released a hardcover. The book immediately reached the Amazon bestseller top 5.

You can still download here Unleashing the Ideavirus for free. It is still an inspiring book. In the meantime updated versions have been released. I have also read VOOK: an e-book with videos where Godin is explaining the book. A real must!

8 Tips for achieving success with viral marketing

So the goal of viral marketing is to make your idea or marketing message as ‘contagious’ as possible, and subsequently release it in a targeted manner to a carefully selected group of people with a great influence on and wide reach of your ultimate target audience.

Some tips to make your message as ‘contagious’ as possible:

    1. Choose a clear goal and a targeted audience for your campaign. The clearer the goal and audience, the more effective your campaign will be. A clear picture beforehand will make it easier to formulate an attractive message.
    2. Think of an exciting message that is linked to the questions, needs, problems and interests of your target audience. Write this message down in two to three sentences and in a short slogan of maximum six to seven words. Short messages are easier to spread on the web and social media.
    3. Build a central web page or website around your message which expresses your own style and attracts the target audience with its layout, colour and content or media. This web page or website will be the point of sale/information where all potential customers will be referred to.
    4. Make sure your web page or website has a short and recognizable web address (URL), and that your customers can easily buy there. The fewer actions your customers need to take to buy your product or service, the higher your chances of success.
    5. Select your ‘sneezers’. They will probably be your family, friends, fans and followers from social networks and the ‘real’ world. If you have access to people your target audience look up to, then you will have a ‘supersneezer’ at hand and as a result your message will spread incredibly fast, far and wide.
    6. Choose the channels through which you want to spread your message. Select channels that are used by your target audience. This might include social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube, as well as email and other channels.
    7. Formulate your message for each channel separately; never spread the same message through different channels. As each channel will have its own rules of use and possibilities.
    8. Measure the speed and scope of your idea, and determine which one of your ‘sneezers’ will ensure the fastest and farthest distribution (because many of their followers, fans and friends will spread your idea further). Maybe you can give an extra reward to these ‘sneezers’ or stimulate them extra to promote your idea.

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