Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Viral Marketing on the Web

Have you ever gone to a concert where the band began circulating beach-balls emblazoned with their logo on them? Or maybe the cover to their latest album? Have you ever gone outside to find that a couple of politicians have come by and left you a nifty little gift of a notepad and pencil with their names on them? There are countless examples of this sort of promotion these days, and it is all done to help spread a message by word of mouth and props. When you take that beach-ball home from the concert, you're going to tell your friends about it, and they are going to want to go to the concert the next time Billy and the Boneheads are in town. Likewise, your little pen/pad combo will no doubt spark up a conversation about the local political shenanigans. This is a powerful type of marketing that carries major pull in the online marketing world right now. We call it Viral Marketing.

Let's take a look at the ups and downs of viral marketing on the internet. Many people jump in front of a camera and shake their bellies to old club songs - long before the product or service they are promoting is really ready for that kind of exposure. A lot of marketers have built pretty low reputations around the web for jumping into the 'viral goldmine' just a tad too early for their own good.

Viral Marketing isn't just about generating a swarm of eager clickers - you really need to have a good product or service these days, else you will find your efforts almost always backfire. The days of setting your head on fire and attracting an untold ring-tone fortune are over. To put it bluntly, people just aren't as stupid as they used to be. What once worked wonders for those who used these techniques are now risky gambles for anyone who is looking to capitalize on viral traffic. If you are going to tap into the viral capacity of videos, podcast releases, and even forwarded/social-bulletin jokes, you need to make sure you have a solid foundation for your project. Basically, try to not show the whole world incomplete works or underdone offerings that could cost you your entire investment (time or money), literally overnight. Make sure your product or service is ready for prime-time.

If you have a solid or well thought out service or product, this writer says yes - all the way - yes - go with the crazy, zany, wacky-tell-all-my-friends type of marketing and go viral with it. It just works... If you do it right.

Let's take viral videos for example. In some cases, all you'll need is that one gem video and that's all it takes. All of the sudden people are coming to your website from all corners of the globe, clicking your links, and even getting some action in on your Adsense units. This is an extremely lucky example because in most cases you need to follow through with other less viral means of promotion to get the timing you are looking for. Things like blogging, social bookmarking, and even article writing are critical to get your campaign going. For viral marketing to work, you need the whole internet to be fighting over being the first of their friends to share that new buzz-worthy video.

Targeting your audience is less important with viral campaigns because everyone is sharing your message. There is absolute certainty that at least some of them are making up your target demographic. Since your traffic is so widely diverse, you get the best of both worlds because it leaves more time for you to work on your product or service and removes some of the hassles of studying a demographic for paid advertising or other non-viral means of promotion.

So, after these insights, here is a tip. Keep this in mind: You want your viral media to spread itself and to let the people you are really targeting find you on their own. Your viral campaigns are your chance to become a favorite. They are your chance to be shared. Videos are your chance to be syndicated by the people. There is no better way to be in the hearts of your audience than to become highly recommended. And no matter what you use to promote your offering, there is no Adwords budget that can go beyond the recommendation of a friend. Recommendations are the new life blood of internet marketing, and harnessing them for your benefit is just one bowling-ball-to-the-groin away - If your product is solid. If not, you may want to go back to the drawing board on that aspect of your project for a little while. You don't want to end up with the hottest video on the planet and sporting comments about the pointless site it promotes! Your viral implementations don't need to match your offering - that's the beauty of it all. If your product is good, your clientele will find you on its own. In this way, viral marketing cuts out a lot of guesswork.

As a final tip, use my own 3-V's: Virility is only Victory when backed by Value. I hope that this article has given you a better look into the world of viral marketing. Hopefully you have all of the starter information you need to get things rolling. Good luck!

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