Viral marketing definition, Example, and More

 Are you still hoping for your brand or business to go viral but aren't sure how? You are not by yourself. This post provides examples of how to create successful viral marketing campaigns.

Brands all over the world are constantly striving to raise their profile. It is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies today, which is why brands are partnering with influencers for the chance to catapult their business to success.

However, viral marketing is not as simple as it sounds. It is not an exact science, and one cannot simply wake up, post something, and have it go viral.

Of course, if you've ever tried to create viral ad campaigns, you know how difficult the task is. Even with the most comprehensive digital strategy, the majority of the best viral marketing ads are discovered by chance. And this is why successful ones are so difficult to plan.

Should you, however, give up and stick to traditional advertising channels? No. Because, for one thing, viral ad campaigns are both inexpensive and effective. That is why we created this content.

Here's everything you need to know about this digital strategy, including examples of the best viral marketing campaigns.

FACTS:

  1. Paid advertising is used by 24% of marketers to influence direct sales.
  2. Sixty-eight percent of marketing leaders use guided selling technology or tools.(HubSpot)
Viral Marketing Campaigns

Viral marketing definition

Viral marketing is not a novel idea. It was initially known as 'word of mouth marketing,' but its popularity grew with the introduction of social media platforms.

In a nutshell, viral marketing is a marketing strategy used by brands to raise awareness. It is a sales technique that "seeks to spread information about a product or service from person to person by word of mouth or sharing via the internet or email," according to Investopedia.

This marketing strategy makes use of social media platforms and word-of-mouth to raise awareness of a specific product or service. The goal is to increase sales or conversions via a viral process.

Depending on the type of campaign, viral content may include, among other things, videos, images, newsletters, interactive forums, and dedicated text messages. Memes are an example of viral content that people share because they can relate to them.

How Viral Marketing Works

In this marketing technique, the term "viral" refers to something that quickly and widely spreads across a large audience. This is the fundamental concept of viral marketing: to create 'infectious' content that entices users to share it with their family and friends.

This method of advertising is paid for, and the resulting ripple effect is largely dependent on sharing product or service benefits with potential customers, resulting in popularity while increasing traffic, leads, and return on investment.

Viral marketing examples

White Claw Hard Seltzer Campaign 

White Claw Hard Seltzer Campaign
White Claw Hard Seltzer Campaign
Let's White Claw is the first marketing campaign for Mark Anthony Brands' hard seltzer brand White Claw.

Ireland-based Mark White Claw was introduced in the United States by Anthony Brands in 2016. The brand now controls 60% of the hard seltzer market in the United States.

Let's White Claw will feature a diverse range of film and music creators from around the world who have been enlisted to capture everyday moments.

The campaign will be promoted on Instagram, as well as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, and Pinterest. It will first be available in the United States in April, before expanding to other markets over the next four months.

"Let's White Claw is the first in a series of milestones for White Claw," said Davin Nugent, CEO of Mark Anthony Brands. Since its debut in 2016, White Claw has received unprecedented support from our customers.

"This campaign is tailored to them. White Claw fans are among the most engaged of any brand in the world, with the product inspiring an entire subculture.

"After witnessing the phenomenal global engagement with the White Claw brand, we're excited to not only launch our campaign in new markets, but also our brand and our products, in what is shaping up to be our most successful year yet."

White Claw has also appointed Gisela Rule as global brand director.

"It's going to be a big year for us," Rule added, "with seven new markets launching in the coming weeks." The Let's White Claw campaign is an excellent way to kick off our ambitious global expansion plans for 2021 and beyond."

According to Brand Champions data, White Claw sold 27.5 million nine-litre cases in 2019 – a 298.0% increase over the previous year.

Mark Anthony Brands invested $400 million in a new White Claw Hard Seltzer facility in Columbia, South Carolina, last November.

White Claw debuted in the United Kingdom and Australia last year.

Wendy's Retweet Chicken Nugget Challenge

Wendy's Retweet Chicken Nugget Challenge
In 2017, a Twitter user asked Wendy's to name the number of tweets he would need to get himself free chicken nuggets for a year. Wendy's responded, "18 million."

Carter sent out another tweet, this time asking for help from other Twitter users to achieve his goals. He didn't quite meet his goal, but his tweet became the most retweeted tweet of all time in the same year. Wendy's decided to reward his efforts as a result. He did, however, obtain the chicken nuggets.

Viral marketing is not limited to video or image formats. This example demonstrates what your brand should do when it receives positive customer feedback. Wendy's didn't think Carter's post would go anywhere, but because of his efforts, they encouraged other users to assist him in reaching his goal.

Wendy's probably didn't expect this tweet to go viral, but when it did, they encouraged other users to help Carter reach his goal.

Start Viral Marketing Campaigns Using E-books

Start Viral Marketing Campaigns Using E-books

Viral Marketing sounds like something bad but it is actually something very good. It is, also, a powerful way to generate traffic to your website.

Think about how a virus spreads from on person to another. One person gets sick and just by sneezing they can give the virus to many more people… those people get sick and share their germs with everyone they know and the next thing anybody knows is that there is an epidemic. That is the very concept of viral marketing. The idea is to get everyone to spread your marketing message around because they want to. 

Now let’s look at using an E-book to start your viral marketing campaign. First you create an E-book… a really good one that has links to your website, to your sales page and affiliate links to products and services that you recommend… and you give it to three people. In the book you encourage those three people to give it to their friends and family.

Before you know it the E-book is spreading across the Internet like wild fire. Digital information duplicates easily and quickly so before you know it, thousands of people could be reading your free E-book. 

Make certain that you let people know that they have permission to forward the E-book around the Internet. When you create the E-book, you have the right to give people certain rights. One of those rights could be that you allow them to give the book to other people. Make it clear that this book is free to give away. 

You can write the E-book yourself, use private label content or you can hire a ghostwriter to prepare the content. There are a lot of ways to create an E-book. Once you have your E-book written, use software to create your E-book.
 

What an E-Book Can Do for You

What an E-Book Can Do for You

An e-book that includes your marketing message and a link to your website is a proven technique in viral marketing. This method uses the multiplication effect to "explode" the distribution of your message by willing participants.

This is the basic principle that was used by Hotmail to get established. When the two founders set up their free email system, all the messages that were sent by subscribers had a text message at the bottom that identified Hotmail as the origin. People who sent emails to their friends advertised the free email site.

Using viral e-books as a marketing method is cheap. It doesn’t take long to set up and it’s even quicker if you use rebrandable e-books that have been written by others. Just use your favorite search engine and do a web search. You will find many rebrandable e-books that are available on whatever subject you are interested in and that applies to your e-business. One method of distributing the E-book is to offer it to visitors in exchange for subscribing to your newsletter. If they pass it on to their friends and family, it will promote your business for you.

E-books are capable of reaching a large audience and are limited only by the enthusiasm of the participants.

E-books are fairly easy to create. It’s possible to produce your own e-books by combining articles that you have written or have gotten from public domain sources, such as directories.

A common approach is to use material that has private label rights, including articles and reports that have been written specifically for that purpose, for that niche. Using a portion of a larger work that you have prepared, such as the first three chapters of a large E-book, could also be used as a viral E-book.

Four Good Reasons to Use Viral E-books

Four Good Reasons to Use Viral E-books
It is a well-known and widely accepted fact that e-books, especially free e-books, are one of the best weapons in a viral marketing campaign arsenal. Here are four good reasons why this is true today and will continue to be true for the foreseeable future:

  1. E-books are cheap to produce and don’t take long to set up. If you have articles that you have already written about the subject you are promoting, you can simply combine these articles into an E-book. If, on the other hand, writing isn’t your forte, you can use rebrandable e-books that have been produced by others. Just use your favorite search engine and do a web search for "rebrandable E-books". You will get a lot of hits and have many to choose from. One way to distribute these e-books to visitors to your website is to give them as a free gift for subscribing to your newsletter. If your e-book contains material that people will want to share with their friends and family, they will pass it along to them. They will pass it along to others... and you will make money.
  2. E-books are capable of reaching a large audience. The only limiting factor is the enthusiasm of the participants. Therefore, it is absolutely vital that your e-book contain something that people will want to share, like timely information or humor. Remember that people like to know things that the rest of the world needs to know. They will pass along something that makes them look like they are in-the-know.
  3. E-books are a way to sell other products besides the one you originally targeted. For example; if you are selling garden products, your customers could also be interesting in E-books about lawns, trees landscaping, etc.
  4. E-books are effective in building your reputation. It is an implied recommendation if you give a quality e-book and users will pass it on to others.

E-books and affiliate programs

affiliate programs

Some e-books combine very well with an affiliate program. When the affiliate receives some extra benefit from promoting the viral message, like being able to brand your E-book with his affiliate links, the affiliate makes a sale when a reader buys through a branded link. You benefit from increased traffic on your website because the affiliate is willing to promote the e-books for you.

Be absolutely certain that your message includes a clear call to action. There shouldn’t be any doubt whatsoever about what you intend your intended recipients to do. Make sure that the instructions are perfectly clear so that recipients know how to act. The action that you require should be simple and obvious as well. Don’t make things complicated or it will confuse the reader, such as by adding numerous links.

Remember the K.I.S.S. principle Keep It Simple, Stupid! The incentive should be clear to those you want to take action with. Readers will look at your offering for about seven seconds before they move on. If it takes longer than that for them to figure out what it is you want them to do, they will move on. Don’t make your message vague or difficult to comprehend. If you do, chances are you will lose them. You must respect your readers enough to express your message clearly.

Once you are sure you have an E-book that will be of value to an affiliate program, approach them with your idea and be able to show that it will be mutually beneficial.

Viral Marketing through E-books is one of many techniques that, when combined, have a cumulative effect in attracting customers and subscribers to your business as well as targeted visitors to your website.You will very soon find out that this is an excellent way of increasing sales, subscribers, and referrals.

3 Steps to Find "Freebies" to Add to Your E-book

3 Steps to Find Freebies to Add to Your E-book

Those of us who regularly shop online are familiar with the array of free gifts, free bonuses, and just plain freebies that are offered to a visitor to a website to encourage them to buy. How could you collect, select, and offer free gifts that are as valuable as the original merchandise being purchased; package these gifts; and include them in your E-book?There are just three steps to do that very thing. They are:

  1. Determine the key words for each chapter of your e-book.Now, type those words into your favorite search engine. You are looking for free e-books on the same subject in more depth, by a greater expert than you are, or by someone who gives a new and fresh angle to the topic. Add a link to the free E-book in each chapter of your E-book.
  2. Look for related freebies on the Internet.Now you are looking for things that you could give as free gifts in your e-book that will make it more appealing and give it more pass-along appeal to your readers. For example, if you are selling gardening supplies, find a planting guide on the web that can be downloaded and include it as a gift in your e-book.
  3. Save the freebies.Visit the freebie pages on those web sites. Most sites have freebies and encourage you to distribute them.

Other key words I looked for were freebies, free e-books, and free reports, followed by the key word for which I wanted the free stuff.Like... "freebies for gardeners".

Give your reader the best you have to offer.Give them your book, additional reading material, and free gifts to boot. Everybody loves a bargain!

Your e-book is your viral salesman.

Your e-book is your viral salesman.
E-books are the future, and the future is now. The printed word on paper and bound into books used to be the only way information was given and received. They were great. You could take them with you and put them on shelves. They do still exist and will continue to for the foreseeable future, but the time of the e-book has arrived.

The "marketing E-book" is a slightly different animal from just an E-book. Marketing E-books contain text, images, links to web pages, and navigation controls. The marketing e-book has become a very important part of marketing on the Internet.

With a marketing e-book, you can present your story in an effective way and include links to your web sales pages. Your e-book can become your best salesman.

First, your e-book needs to be interesting and informative. It always has links back to your web site and to your sales page.

Next, be sure that you have a prominent section telling readers that they are free to give your e-book away. Let them know that they can post it on their site as a free download, that they can use it as a bonus, and that they can bundle it with other products. This is the way to create viral marketing for your products or services. Remember those links back to your site contained in the E-book?

Last but not least, before you send your e-book out into the world, double-check spelling and grammar, and ensure that you have tested every link to ensure that it works as it should.Obvious mistakes will reflect poorly on you and will be of little value to you, if not harmful.

Post your E-book to some of the E-book directories. Many let you post it for free, or will let you post a link on their site to your E-book.

Why and how does e-mail viral marketing work?

Why and how does e-mail viral marketing work

What does a virus have to do with marketing? Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to spread the message to thousands and then to millions.

Public health nurses offer sage advice during flu season: stay away from people who cough, wash your hands often, and don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Viruses only spread when they're easy to transmit. Viral e-mail marketing works great on the Internet because instant communication has become so easy and inexpensive. The digital format makes copying simple. From a marketing standpoint, you must simplify your marketing message so it can be transmitted easily and without degradation. Short is better. Remember the K.I.S.S. standard? Keep it simple, stupid. The shortest and easiest to remember is always better than long and complicated.

Clever viral marketing plans take advantage of common human motivations. The desire to be cool and greed drive people. So does the hunger to be popular, loved, and understood. The resulting urge to communicate produces millions of websites and billions of e-mail messages.

Most people are social. Nerdy, basement-dwelling computer science grad students are the exception. Social scientists tell us that each person has a network of 8 to 12 people in their close network of friends, family, and associates. People on the Internet develop networks of relationships too. They collect e-mail addresses and favorite website URLs. Affiliate programs exploit such networks, as do permission e-mail lists. Learn to place your message into existing communication between people, and you will rapidly multiply its dispersion.

If you can design a marketing strategy that builds on common motivations and behaviors for its transmission, you have a winner.

What Works & What Doesn't in Viral Marketing

What Works & What Doesn't in Viral Marketing

Stop with the enforced e-mail forwards already! Trying to force or bribe people to forward your info to friends or family in order to be rewarded or win looks skanky in today's ultra-permission-based world. Especially when you tell visitors nothing about their friend's or family’s privacy in the space directly next to the e-mail form.

A true viral campaign gets forwarded because consumers are compelled to do so by the glory of the content, not because you bribed them with points or something else.

What absolutely will not work:

Trying to suggest that e-mail recipients forward your message to their friends and family will not work. Adding a line at the bottom of your e-mail that reads "Please feel free to forward this message to a friend" is more likely to get it deleted than forwarded.

What absolutely will work?

Offering something worthy of sharing like a valuable discount, vital information, or offering an incentive for sharing like additional entries into a sweepstakes or an added discount or premium service will work.

Relevant or timely information, research, or studies that are included in your e-mail might encourage the recipients to share it with their family and friends. Interactive content like a quiz or test, especially if it’s fun, will inspire forwarding.

Jokes and cartoons are almost always forwarded to everybody the recipient knows. Why?  because they are entertaining, and entertainment is meant to be shared.

A really cool multimedia experience is always going to achieve a lot of pass-along. Rich media is new and the novelty and technical factors alone are often enough to make the e-mail recipient eager to share it.

Oh, my! I almost forgot one really important thing.... You can craft a brilliant e-mail following all the rules, but if a consumer visits your site and has an experience less than what was promised, you are going to achieve viral marketing, alright... the bad kind. So, be certain that your product or service is ready and is as advertised.

6 Viral Marketing Concepts

6 Viral Marketing Concepts
Here are six ideas to help you start your viral marketing campaign:

  1. Invest in the branding rights to a popular e-book.Allow people to give away your free e-book to their visitors. Then, their visitors will also give it away. This will just continue to spread your ad all over the Internet.
  2. If you have the ability to set up a forum or other bulletin board, you really have a great tool. Allow people to use your online discussion board for their own website. Some people don't have one. Just include your banner ad at the top of the board.
  3. Do you have a knack for web design? Create some templates, graphics, etc., and upload them to your site. Then, allow people to give away your free web design graphics, fonts, templates, etc. Just include your ad on them or require people to link directly to your web site. Make sure that you include a link back to your site in the copyright notice and require them to keep your copyright notice in tact.
  4. Create an ebook.Allow people to place an advertisement in your free e-book if, in exchange, they give away the e-book to their web visitors or e-zine subscribers.
  5. Create articles about your product or service.Allow people to reprint your articles on their website, in their e-zine, newsletter, magazine, or e-books. Include your resource box and the option for article reprints at the bottom of each article.
  6. You can easily find products on the Internet that will sell you a license allowing you to distribute the product free of charge to other people. Look for those products that provide "branding rights". That is where you can include your own name, website, and contact information.

E-Mail for Viral Marketing

Using E-Mail to Achieve Objectives

Using E-Mail to Achieve Objectives

Viral marketing is an integral part of a campaign strategy that is used to achieve objectives. It is not the objective itself. If the main objective of an e-mail campaign is branding, in order to achieve greater branding success and exposure, you must craft your message or offer in a way that encourages pass-along.

Producing a message with a quality offer or an incentive for pass-along is what viral marketing is all about.

Just suggesting that e-mail recipients forward your message to their friends and relatives is not viral marketing. A message at the bottom of your e-mail that reads "Feel free to forward this message to a friend" is nowhere close to viral marketing at its best.

On the other hand, if something worthy of sharing, such as a valuable discount, vital information, additional entries into a sweepstakes, an added discount or premium service, a joke or cartoon, or a hilarious video, is included in the e-mail, viral marketing happens naturally and quite successfully.

The bottom line is that your message must be perceived as having value. Relevant or timely information, research, or studies are all good examples of content that might be viewed as potential pass-along material. Interactive content like a quiz or text can inspire forwarding, especially if it is fun. Personality tests, fitness quizzes, or compatibility questionnaires are all things that have been passed on by many people many times. Why? Because they are entertaining, and entertainment has value.

A multimedia experience is always going to achieve some pass-along. Someone is always touting the benefits. It is a bit more of a time and money investment, but the messages have great appeal and rich media has the advantage of being new. The tech factor alone is often enough for the message to be perceived as valuable.

Humor Turns E-Mail Viral

Humor Turns E-Mail Viral
A study by Sharpe Partners, an interactive marketing agency, revealed that 89% of adult Internet users in America share content with others via e-mail. This is excellent news for those companies who use self-propelling "word-of-mouse" e-mail techniques to sell their products.

The study also generated some interesting results regarding the type of content that is most often forwarded, as well. The most popular content type is humorous material.

The second most popular category is news, followed by healthcare and medical information, religious and spiritual material, games, business and personal finance information, and sports/hobbies... in that order. So it is easy to see that humor is the best content for your viral e-mail campaign.

Cartoons, jokes, and funny video clips are among the things that can be added to an e-mail to insure that it will go viral. People will want to pass along something that makes them laugh.

They are a lot more likely to hit the forward button and send your email to their friends and relatives if it is an "advertisement" rather than an advertisement.

Not long ago, about 35 million people got an e-mail containing a picture taken at Disneyland. It took a minute to see it, but there was Donald Duck lying prone in front of the famous Cinderella Castle. The title of the picture was "Bird Flu has hit Disneyland". It was a viral e-mail advertising Disneyland and used the edgy strategy of making light of what’s serious... and it worked.

I’d guess that most people who own a computer have seen that picture, thus the advertisement for Disneyland. The bird flu epidemic is newsworthy and has the potential to attract an enormous amount of attention to any brand that might, for whatever reason, associate itself with it.

Remember that people are much more likely to share a joke or a funny picture than anything else, so you would be well advised to include humor in your e-mail campaign.

How to Get and Use E-Mail Addresses for Viral Advertising

Viral Advertising
Viral marketing has an array of possibilities and ways to achieve your overall goals. However, just like everything else, planning and the right setup to create success are the things you will need to make it work for you and your e-business.

The first thing you want to be sure you don’t do is get over-zealous. The one thing you need to avoid at all costs is spamming. Spamming is still widely used, but with the government establishing more restrictions and fines, you don’t want this to be a problem for you. The professional image of your site will also suffer if you send junk mail blatantly.

Spamming requires a database that contains a huge list of e-mail addresses set up so that the message can be delivered with one click. The problem with it (aside from the governmental restrictions and associated fines) is that it irritates the recipients and kills the validity of your campaign, which in turn kills the factors that would motivate someone to refer your 

You need to personalize it by creating a website with personal appeal. You must see to it that your website makes your customers feel safe, secure, and cared for. E-mail is important because it is going to be one of the most affordable ways to keep in touch with your customers.

The proper way to handle email permission is to first let your customers know that you will not transmit their e-mail addresses to third-party companies. The next thing to do is to attach the need for their e-mail addresses to the benefits they can receive.

For example, coupons or discounts that are only available to members who receive e-mail notifications. With each e-mail you send, the viral marketing effect takes place.

Using Viral Marketing  

Using Chat Rooms in Viral Marketing

Using Chat Rooms in Viral Marketing
Spamming chat rooms or instant messaging systems with undifferentiated marketing messages is certainly not a very good idea. But if they are used the right way, these channels can be great to communicate with the market-especially to establish a dialogue with customers.

Have you ever been to a chat room and posted a message? If you haven't, then you may learn some free web-advertising secrets on how to market your products and services in chat rooms. Chat rooms are usually broken into categories. You will need to find the right chat room where your targeted audience gathers. If there isn’t one, then you may need to create one.

It will be of no use to create one that is obviously for the sole purpose of selling your product or service. Rather, it needs to attract people who would be interested in your product or service. For example, if you sell garden products, your chat room should be on the subject of gardening and not the brand name of the products you sell.

Another way to use a chat room to promote your business is to include a chat room on your website. Host a free online seminar in your own chat room about a subject of your expertise. Use your chat room to meet with your current customers and answer any questions or address any problems they may have. Regularly schedule free events in your chat room and be certain that your customers are made aware of when they will occur.

For example, you might have an expert in the field available to answer questions on a certain day and between certain hours. You might also host other people’s chat rooms as an expert yourself. Of course, you could charge for this, but it might be wise to do it free to gain publicity.

Using File Sharing in Viral Marketing

Using File Sharing in Viral Marketing
There are probably ten million people online looking for downloads at any given time. Of course, a lot of them could be looking for pornography or free software, but still, reaching a minimum of a million people on any given day does offer some rather intriguing possibilities.

People like using file services to download music for two simple reasons: they’re free, and there is an incredible selection. The fact is that Pandora’s Box has been opened. In Napster’s wake, other quasi-legal services quickly emerged... a lot of them. Even if they are closed, others will succeed them.

Major record companies would like to think otherwise, but they are never going to stop file sharing. Net users are file sharers, plain and simple. Long before the Internet came into being, people made cassette tapes of their favorite music for their friends... CD burners are so much easier and faster.

So how can you use this to help your viral marketing campaign along? Think about this. Once someone downloads your MP3 files and those files are available on that listener’s hard drive, viral marketing begins. After two users start sharing your files, suddenly, your music is on the hard drive of a second computer... then a third... and on and on. When users are searching and they find your music on a lot of different computers, they are more likely to download the files. It’s just a matter of time before you’ll find your files showing up in more and more places.

Whatever genre of music you enjoy...Rock and roll, country, Tejano, Mozart sonatas, heavy metal, and Brazilian jazz all have an audience.

In this new paradigm, you aren’t hawking a product; you are offering free music via a medium that lets you be directly connected with your audience.

Using Forums in Viral Marketing

Forums in Viral Marketing

Recently, forum marketing has been touted as a kind of free, organic, viral marketing. But because so many marketers go into forums purely with the intention of marketing products or services, their actions and attitudes unwittingly cause the exact opposite of the desired effect.

Forums aren’t marketplaces, but when used as such, the marketers’ actions become offensive and will only inspire the wrath of fellow members and moderators who can ban them from the site with the click of their mouse.

In order to be effective, this kind of marketing carries a certain degree of commitment, responsibility, and respect. The first requirement is to take a personal interest in the main topic of the forum. Not only does that mean visiting it regularly, but it also means developing a good relationship with both other members and the moderators, as well as taking an active interest in helping others. Of course, it also means abiding by all the rules that exist. By doing this, one can develop a reputation and, since it is human nature to work with a trusted colleague, business will naturally develop from this.

This type of marketing has already suffered some abuse, and because of this, many forums have recently developed stringent rules designed to protect their members from abusive or overly-aggressive marketing tactics. One forum grants.sig files only after a member has created one hundred valid posts, and another has disallowed ads in sig files altogether.

Marketers must understand that the purpose of a forum is to be a platform to exchange ideas on a given topic. It is not there to advertise products and services. By focusing on the topic and posting questions and answers, a marketer’s reputation will grow, and this creates the potential for sales naturally.

Using Videos in Viral Marketing

Videos in Viral Marketing
More and more advertisers are adopting video as broadband continues to rise and ad-serving technologies become more sophisticated. Online video advertising is really taking off. Users’ attention can be captured and ads stand out from the crowd in an increasingly ad-cluttered online environment. It is true that video formats cost five to ten times more to serve than standard banners, and they involve a lot more production and implementation work, but they may well be worth all of that if they achieve greater response rates.

What advertisers must carefully consider is where to use online video if they wish to maximize its effect. Video to be used on the Internet should be informational and communication-focused, while video to be used on television should be focused on entertainment.

Like everything else, there are good ways and bad ways to use video advertising. Right now, most marketers are incorporating their audio-visual content into existing embedded ad formats like banners or over-content formats like pop-ups. Though this could reach a potentially large audience, viewers are likely to be less captivated and more annoyed by these disruptive and distracting placements.

Cached or streaming video on a specific destination site offers the best chance of engaging consumers in brand messages, but it is not likely to reach a large audience unless it generates a viral outcome.

Whatever you come up with, don't forget to make it easy to open and distribute. File size is important, as is the media format. If your viral video has been created for a particular type of software that not many people use, how will you get people to spread it like wildfire?

Also, if you've made a video, the impact will be better if you send the clip as an attachment rather than stream it. It's cheaper and, if you're not hosting it, it's more viral, too.

Viral Marketing Using Forums

There are different types of forums, beyond the obvious topical types of "marketing," "special interest," etc. "Marketing" and "special interests" are two types of what are commonly referred to as "open forums".

There are, however, business and professional forums, which do not operate under the same rules and, more often than not, disallow any and all types of advertising or self-promotion. Forums that have been created to support the membership of a particular program are especially adamant on this topic and often demand that all members refrain from all types of advertising on their sites.

Still, even with all these hurdles, it is possible to successfully advertise in forums. In all cases, a pre-requisite for success is developing a good reputation and a good relationship and maintaining both. So, while it is true that this is a form of free advertising, it does require a certain amount of investment as far as time and energy are concerned, not to mention subtly and finesse.

To successfully market on any forum, the first requirement is to take a personal interest in the main topic of the forum. That means visiting it on a regular basis and developing a good relationship with the members and the moderators. It also means taking an active role in the conversations and being willing to help others. Of course, it goes without saying that it means abiding by any and all rules that exist. In this way, one can develop a reputation, and business will just naturally develop because humans tend to work with people they trust.

Since the main purpose of a forum is the exchange of information and/or ideas, marketers must respect that objective and abide by it. Marketing forums, where everyone there has something to advertise and sell, usually have even more stringent rules.

Successful Viral Marketing

In order to be successful using forums to do viral marketing, there are some things that are required.

Do Your Research: Before you join any forum, you should conduct some research.

  1. Join relevant forums that are in some way related to the promotion’s primary sales market. For example, if someone is involved with a health-related product, many types of forums could apply... everything from holistic medicine to stay-at-home moms.
  2. Select popular forums.There is no point in wasting your time and energy on forums with few members and few posts. Page raking and the number of active members are two good ways to check for this.
  3. Choose forums that allow "sig" tags. If it’s possible, read the rules before joining and pay attention to them. Your time is important, too. It is better to find out that a forum doesn’t allow posts with sig tags before you go to the time and trouble of joining.

After You Have Joined: OK, you have chosen two or three forums that meet your requirements. Now what?

  1. Keep your signature tag brief and up to date.The ideal thing is to limit yourself to one link, preferably to your main website.
  2. Never create posts that are merely advertisements.This is all but a universal rule and only displays the marketer's lack of experience if he does so. At best, this kind of post will be deleted by the monitors. At worst, it is grounds for being banned.
  3. Make use of the space.Be an active member of the forum. Plan to spend at least an hour each day there and take the time to get to know the users. Take the time to introduce yourself with intelligent questions depending upon the forum’s topic.

As a marketer becomes a regular member, they will hopefully develop a good reputation, and without saying a word about their promotion, those who are interested in their product will approach them.

Viral Marketing Goes Mobile

Viral Marketing Goes Mobile
Mobile devices, such as mobile phones and PDA's, are one of the last great frontiers of viral advertisement opportunities. However, we have become experts at filtering everything: our air and water, our e-mail and pop-ups, and our mobile devices as well. We are good at filtering.

The very idea of unwanted advertising streaming through our Blackberries is abhorrent. Mobile devices are the ultimate opt-in medium and, therefore, a great way for marketers to connect with users if that’s what the users want. "WANT" is the key word here. How should marketers approach the medium?

There are three main ways to achieve this. They are:

  1. Offer exclusive content. Anyone can offer ring tones. It’s the unique content, such as exclusive mobile images of new brand concepts, that drives interest and calls them out in other media like e-mail campaigns, newsletters, websites, etc. So a wireless campaign is most effective when it offers exclusive content for wireless devices.
  2. Make it useful and timely. Think about what would be handy and helpful to have on a mobile device. For example, last year, the Food Network enabled Sprint customers to download shopping lists for their Thanksgiving dinners. There was a lot of "Sprint-envy" going around among non-Sprint customers.
  3. Clearly define your goals.Usually, one of two business objectives drives successful mobile experiences: incremental revenue or brand intimacy. On the intimacy factor, a text message usually takes priority over almost any other form of communication. Why? because we haven’t yet been saturated with mobile spam, and this is what causes us to prioritize wireless messaging over voice.

Mobile marketing has been out there for a while, but we marketers have new territory to explore. Video offers fantastic opportunities for engagement. Consumers already bypass their filters for highly useful or entertaining content and will do so for rich, exclusive, compelling content.

"Folksonomies": a New Viral Marketing Tool

"Folksonomies": a New Viral Marketing Tool

A new consumer phenomenon is called "tagging" or "folksonomies" (short for "folks" and "taxonomy). Tagging is powerful because consumers are creating an organizational structure for online content. Folksonomies not only enable people to file away content under tags but, even better, share it with others by filing it under a global taxonomy that they created.

Here's how tagging works. Using sites such as del.icio.us (a bookmark sharing site) and Flickr (a photo sharing site), consumers are collaborating on categorizing online content under certain keywords, or tags.

For instance, an individual can post photographs of their iPod on Flickr and file them under the tag "iPod." These images are now not only visible under the individual user's iPod tag but also under the community iPod tag that displays all images consumers are generating and filing under the keyword. Right now, Flickr has more than 3,500 photos that are labeled "iPod."

Tagging is catching on because it is a natural complement to search. Type the word "blogs" into Google and it can't tell if you are searching for information about how to launch a blog, how to read blogs, or just what. Large and small sites alike are already getting on board the folksonomy train. They are rolling out tag-like structures to help users more easily locate content that's relevant to them.

Although tags are far from perfect, marketers should nevertheless be using them to keep a finger on the pulse of the American public. Start subscribing to RSS feeds to monitor how consumers are tagging information related to your product, service, company, or space. These are live focus groups that are available for free, 24/7. Folksonomy sites can also be carefully used to unleash viral marketing campaigns—with a caveat. Marketers should be upfront about who they are and why they are posting the link/photos, and they should avoid spamming the services.

The Many Facets of Viral Marketing

In the beginning, e-mail was the one way that viral marketing started. Since that long ago day, viral marketing has gone from a marketing strategy to an art form, and there are many ways to accomplish the objective of creating a successful viral marketing campaign. Seven of those ways are:

  1. E-mail: It was the first, but it is still around and still used. It is, however, getting a little harder to use as more and more government restrictions are placed on it. Still, it does work.
  2. Newsletters: This is an extension of e-mail, but it is a very effective tool. If you include enough timely and valuable information, a good newsletter can increase the number of visits to your website.
  3. Blogging: Providing the tools on your website to enable bloggers to interact with one another is a terrific way to get the message about your product or service out there and being talked about. Bloggers have their ears to the ground for new products and services.
  4. Chat Rooms: A chat room on your website can and does encourage interaction among your customers, and that can’t be a bad thing. Also, you can use the chat room to schedule special events like having an expert available to answer questions on a given day at a given time.
  5. Tell-a-Friend Script: If you add this with a statement saying that e-mail addresses supplied will never be shared with third parties, you can greatly increase your potential customer list.
  6. Video Clips: Including entertaining video clips on your website will keep visitors interested and increase traffic.
  7. Flash Games: Although they are a little costly to start, they are an extremely effective tool to get your viral marketing campaign going. Once they are launched, they require nothing more from you.

B2B marketers are no exception.

B2B marketers
They use viral marketing by e-mail as a marketing tool. What did you think I meant? Viral marketing can work well for B2B providers as long as the following is true:

  1. The product or service has to add value for the sender, as well as, the receiver.
  2. The offer has to be deliverable. You don’t want to offer a product that you can’t deliver if demand grows rapidly.
  3. The offer has to be easily transferable to others. E-mail and Web pages provide the best medium to facilitate this.
  4. The most successful viral marketing campaigns use existing networks to move the message along.

The basis of viral marketing has been around for a long time. The idea is that you incite your customers or referral sources to pass on something about your business to their network of colleagues and friends. Those that pass on your information get something in return. The something might be a gift or service related to your business.

Using e-mail makes it incredibly easy to pass information on to a friend or colleague, especially if it involves something fun or free. With millions using the Internet worldwide, the potential for exponential growth is tremendous. The great things about viral marketing are that it is free and that it works virtually by itself. Once you make an offer and provide the facility for referrals, viral marketing spreads like... well... a virus... but the good kind.

To implement viral marketing at your business, first, start with your customer base. Motivate current customers to refer new ones.Second, go to your referral sources. Service providers, your outside network, and colleagues can be encouraged to provide referrals that lead to business.

If your customers are stressed business owners, offer a reward that provides relaxation and leisure... like a weekend away.

Getting a "Buzz" On

Viral marketing has matured a bit over the years. There seems to have been a shift to the web not just being seen by agencies and brands as another tick box for any ad campaign, which is significant enough, but now being the medium where a campaign is launched to create a buzz before it hits TV and print. Even before a movie is released, which used to be seen as the pre-launch buzz-generation activity. Big business "gets it".

Buzz works! It can work for small and start-up businesses, as well. The planning stage of a viral campaign will set out objectives and develop the viral theme for a buzz. There are three core components to any viral campaign, and businesses of any size can use them. They are:

  1. The creative material: the viral agent that embodies the message you want to spread in a digital format (image, video, text, etc.). The trick is to put together material that people will be eager to share with their family and friends, and people are much more eager to share "advertentainment" and advertisements.
  2. Seeding: distributing and deploying the agent in areas with the greatest potential for spread.Direct viral material downloads or links on specialist viral third-party websites in order to create awareness and spread before users get to the campaign destination site.
  3. Tracking: Measuring the campaign's reach to ensure accountability and success.It is absolutely vital that you know what is or is not working. The only way to get that information is to track the results of your seeding.

Lessons have been learned, trends have been developed, and there is definitely some science involved in creating a buzz successfully. The buzz technique is here to stay and, if used strategically, can make a difference to the success of your e-business.

The Subservient Chicken

The Subservient Chicken is a viral marketing promotion for Burger King's line of chicken sandwiches. It was created for Miami Advertising Agency Crispin Porter and Bogusky by The Barbarian Group.

The campaign is based on a website that features a person in a chicken costume. The actor performs a wide range of actions based on a user’s input, showing pre-recorded footage and appearing like an interactive webcam. The takes the advertising slogan "Get chicken just the way you like it" literally.

There are more than a hundred commands the chicken will respond to, including:

Michael Jackson dance moves include the moonwalk and the river dance."The elephant" Make an eggYoga Rage Spank Taco Bell Fight Walk Like an Egyptian

When told to do anything the subservient chicken thinks is offensive, like performing sex acts or taking off his mask, the chicken walks up to the camera and shakes a scolding chicken finger in disappointment. If he is told to eat food from rival fast food places like McDonald's, he approaches the camera and places his finger down his throat, but when told to eat Burger King, he has a more positive response. The chicken responds to the command "smoke crack" by smoking, but when told to "smoke a bong," he waggles his finger scoldingly.

Burger King’s Chicken Fights campaign was recently introduced. The two cockfighting chicken characters are modeled after this chicken. 
There seems to be no end to the variations on the theme of Burger King. There has also been a lot of criticism leveled at the chain about the subservient chicken, but for now it looks like Burger King is crying all the way to the bank.

A successful viral campaign isn’t always in good taste. Maybe that’s what makes them so tasty.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science Went Viral

The Houston Museum of Natural Science Went Viral
The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) was chosen to showcase the world-famous exhibition for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. HMNS quickly realized that while the exhibit was expected to generate a great deal of interest, it didn’t have a lot of appeal for their core audience. The success of the exhibition, therefore, would rest on how it was marketed.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science quickly called in Spur Digital to help reach the targeted demographic audience and generate interest in the exhibit. HMNS was also hoping to acquire new patrons and members to further their future revenue.

Spur digital worked with HMNS to identify the target market for the campaign and developed an integrated online media plan to reach those audiences. The campaign featured an online contest that was marketed through targeted online media outlets, including relevant Web sites, search engines, and third-party e-mail lists. Viral marketing was an important component of the campaign, so Spur developed an innovative strategy to get people to refer their friends.

Spur identified the target audience as males 18 to 34 years old who were fans of action and fantasy films, frequent video game players and movie renters, and tech-savvy who generally didn’t hang out at museums. Based on this information, Spur chose search engine advertisements that would accompany specific search words; dedicated e-mail advertisements; sponsored e-mail advertisements; banner ads on web sites targeted toward the desired audience; and e-mails to the HMNS list.

Did it work? You bet! The results were excellent. The impact of the viral marketing effort was astounding—over 23% of registrants came from origins of the Tell-A-Friend feature. The direct marketing efforts yielded impressive results as well. In total, the 12-week, locally-targeted online campaign yielded more than 2 million targeted impressions, 40,000 unique visits, and almost 12,000 to 6,000 invitations sent by friends at a cost per action of less than $3.00. These contributed to the record attendance of almost 100,000 over 3 months.        

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