Viral marketing involves spreading your message quickly through your target market. Social media is considered a particularly fertile area because of the potential for viral marketing to amplify your message. Also called buzz marketing, viral marketing gets its name because it spreads through a population much like a virus – from person to person. Viral marketing looks like WOM (Word of Mouth) on steroids.
Just about everyone working in social media recognizes the importance of viral marketing, so let’s talk about HOW to create the BUZZ.
Anatomy of a Buzz
Viral marketing isn’t a strategy, although I’ve heard internet marketers talk like it is — OK, we’re going to create a viral marketing campaign. Duh, what is a viral marketing campaign??? Can you create a viral campaign?? I think the answer is NO. You CAN create a campaign using strategies that make it likely the message will go viral, but you can never accurately predict what will ultimately go viral. And it’s not easy to get messages to go viral. Here’s a link to some of the best in viral marketing.
In creating a campaign you hope will go viral, you need 7 elements:
- A message folks are dying to share – unlike paid advertising, WOM is spread voluntarily. So, you have to motivate folks to share your message. Inherently, people spread your message because THEY get something out of it. They don’t care about YOU. People share your content because they want to feel important, be part of the inner circle, become influential, to increase their stature with their friends, they get free access or products, to build a relationship with you … So, the first part of creating a message you hope will go viral is to provide for these elements.
Content should be interesting, valuable, humorous, attractive, or have some other element that makes it sharable.
Encourage sharing by thanking folks who share content, responding to or mentioning them, add them to your circle (in Google+), friend them, follow them.
- A network – face it, viral marketing is a numbers game. You can have a few folks in your network and they can each share your message A LOT, or you can have lots of folks in your network who each share with a few. Either way, your message can go viral. Since you have little control over how broadly folks share your message, the safest route is to have lots of folks in your network. That way, when they share, you’re guaranteed to have wide distribution of your message.
- Influencers – it’s great to have influencers as part of your network because, by definition, they have large networks that are likely to spread messages they transmit. So, you should try to cultivate a few influencers to your network. You can do this by engaging them or rewarding them in some way — such as providing free product or early access to the product. Google+ used this very effectively by inviting influencers in and allowing them to invite their networks.
- Authority - the more authority you have, the more likely you are to have your message spread. Folks don’t like to spread rumors (gossip, yes, but rumors, no), untrue claims, content that lacks value, etc. Authority suggests both value and veracity to your content. A corollary is that authority commonly brings larger audiences into your network.
- Effective targeting - it really doesn’t help for your message to reach a lot of people who will never buy your product or service and likely, their friends won’t either. Companies who “pay” for their network (of Fans or Followers) often end up with folks outside their target market. Viral marketing, in this context, is a waste.
- Metrics – are critical for success in viral marketing because these measures allow you to track success. By understanding which messages go viral and which don’t you can hone your technique so messages are more likely to go viral. For instance, timing is often critical in getting social media messages to go viral because messages are quickly replaced by new messages. Poor timing and few people will see your message and have the opportunity to share it.
- Luck – even with the best strategy and implementation, viral marketing sometimes involves a little luck.
So, share your experiences. Have you attempted to use viral marketing? What was the outcome? What did you learn from this effort?