Viral Marketing Works (Pass it On!)

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Viral marketing is very hip and everyone says that it works. Yet, my experience is that few people can define what viral marketing really is or give tangible examples other than say, "Like YouTube". So, let me take a crack at it.

Viral marketing is not new. In fact, it has been around for ages since it really is just someone passing along some information to a friend about something that they heard or saw. More specifically, the term "viral marketing" describes online or off-line techniques to increase awareness about an offering or an event using existing social networks. True viral marketing is voluntary and relies upon the recipient to pass on the message to his or her friends. That message could be text, audio, video, or images; it could as simple as a story told to another. The originator of the message has no control over the message's destinations, but relations upon the intelligence of the social network to find the right recipients.

The most famous recent example is the launch of the free email application called "Hotmail", which relied on happy users to tell their friends about it. Launched in 1996, Hotmail now has over 230 million users. The technique has been copied by Google's Gmail, which allows you to invite up to five friends to join.

Word-of-mouth campaigns require that the offering or event be interesting, valuable, or funny to the recipient to such an amount that they will refer it to a friend. This is where most viral campaigns fail; most are valuable to the recipient and there is no reason to pass it on.

MySpace has opened up a new channel for viral marketing. I have a friend named Rudy Chavarria who runs a promotion company called American AMP ( which promotes movies using MySpace. Prior to formal release of a movie, Rudy's team will build multiple sites on MySpace promoting the event jumping to create a buzz. The different sites may target a slightly different demographic or "friend" as they call them on MySpace. In all cases, the passion of the MySpace friend is what propels them to tell others.

Another viral marketing trend is the use of free e-books to create a buzz for an author or expert. Typically, the e-book is a short summary of a print book. The e-book is passed along to build a brand for the book with the hope that the reader will want to buy the printed version.

Viral marketing works … spread the word.

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Source by John Bradley Jackson