Video Production  and Viral Video

Viral Marketing

Using Viral Marketing to reach new customers

In the world of dot com, it needn't take a huge amount of time or money to promote your business to the masses. It's just a case of getting people to do the talking for you ... As businesses try to come up with original ways of standing out, viral marketing has become an important way to reach out to consumers. The online equivalent of word of mouth, the term refers to any marketing strategy that encourages an existing customer base to 'sneeze' your business message around their immediate network. What is so impressive about it is that it shouldn't cost a penny in advertising nor require investment in other traditional means, to have a far-reaching effect.

Quietly Does It

At face value it can be so easy to confuse viral marketing with traditional advertising: after all you're trying to grab someone's attention. However, as the founders of Hotmail demonstrate, it is actually far more subliminal than that. Their simp,le 'tell a friend' option and promotional text at the foot of an email made them a world leading email provider, with some 75 million users. Not surprisingly they invented the phrase!

Therefore, rather than making your business centre stage, viral marketing focuses on providing something free in the hope that it gets passed on.
In doing so you then alert people to what your business is about. It's important not to over-sell your product as the idea is to capture your audience's imagination before you start selling. It has to be good, usually quite simple, but executed well.

Spreading the Bug

There are so many different avenues you can take with viral marketing. All require different Ievels of involvement, yet each has the potential to reach the masses.You can create microsites that allow visitors to tell friends and associates about your product or offer. You can also host interactive games, quizzes and polls on your website. You can give away graphic templates with a compulsory link back to your website, or get permission to distribute free branded software to other people. Alternatively you can get writing and allow visitors to re-brand your e-books, or give reprint rights on your own articles. You can also use your website for forums or bulletin boards or sign up to Affiliate Programmes to trade text or graphics, meaning someone else's marketing tool relays your message.

There's also the increasingly popular trend of creating interesting or amusing video and audio clips to promote products. Bruce Hazleton comments: "Mini produced a startling video website of an East End hard man using your first name and making references to some personal characteristics. Of course, these were all filled in by the person sending you the viral campaign but the result was stunning."

Treading Carefully

Understandably with so many options out there, it can be tempting to go in with all guns blazing and slap any old thing together in the bid to prompt discussion. However, the whole point of viral marketing is to come up with a compelling idea, and then execute it in a simple and trustworthy manner.
That is what evokes the required response. Therefore, it's important to adopt a measured approach and do some essential research beforehand. It is not enough to examine current attitudes, tastes and preferences. You need to focus on what your prospective audience will be looking for, and how your customers are currently responding to what you do. After all, it is the latter that influence the future purchases of their immediate network. As Steve Redden from Woking-based 3wise Internet Solutions says: "Viral marketing is a very cheap way to advertise to a large audience very quickly. However, it has to be done well enough, to guarantee that users will keep forwarding the message on.”

Simplicity Hiding Complexity

In order for all your viral efforts to pay off, technology needs to play a pivotal role from start to finish. Primarily you need to equip your customer with the means to wholeheartedly share with others what you've given them. However, you also need to make sure you build scalability into your 'viral' model, to cope with the increasing traffic that inevitably comes from a well-executed campaign. Last but not least, you need the back-office capability to track your progress and capture essential user data. After all, you need to work out what actually spoke to your customer, particularly if you've integrated different elements into a campaign.

Finding the Cure

Finally, it's worth remembering that like any other promotional activity, viral marketing will work for a while, only for people to slowly become 'inoculated'. Do master the art of knowing when it's time to wind down a campaign, otherwise your genuine efforts might start being interpreted as SPAM. Remember, the power of the Internet should never be underestimated!

From an article published in ‘Woking Uncovered’ issue eleven by Lucy Austin.

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