Aiming to be a more organic form of marketing, viral marketing aims to spread awareness of a brand or product by influencing the audience to talk about them. The effect is an exponentially growing community all talking about you.
Viral Marketing Basics
Viral marketing works on the idea of how a virus may spread, from person to person increasing its rate as it “infects” more people. Viral marketing would have the target audience acting similarly, spreading brand awareness through word of mouth or the like.
You can imagine how social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram helped propel this idea. With everyone sharing their thoughts online, it’s no surprise that businesses are now adopting this method into their practices.
Viral Marketing Examples
One example is how Hotmail, one of the earlier free email providers. Hotmail made use of integrated advertising embedded in users’ outgoing mail which included links for account creation.
In more recent times, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is another great example. We don’t have to explain much here. The Ice Bucket challenge was successful in raising awareness and funds for the ALS Association, spreading like wildfire over social media.
Characteristics of Viral Marketing
For viral marketing to be effective, we have to understand what makes it work. Most would agree that we can focus on three components; the message, messenger, and the environment. If all three are targeted right, the marketing campaign is more likely to succeed.
Companies can make use of whatever is available. While others stay with the more “traditional” media (e.g. digital posters, email and SMS blasts, and free samples) others have taken to targeting video game users and, recently, social media influencers.
Already, we can see how viral marketing ends up being less expensive than conventional marketing. This is why it is often used to boost the impact of traditional marketing tactics, working together to create a huge wave of attention.
Pros and Cons of Viral Marketing
The best part about viral marketing is the potential of the campaign’s reach. While traditional marketing would have you aim at specific sections of the market, viral marketing’s potential would make it possible to reach audiences not within your scope.
Viral marketing costs are a fraction of traditional advertising campaigns. And advertising is essentially free when consumers infectiously share their positive experiences with a company’s products and services with others.
And like what we mentioned before, viral marketing comes at a much lower cost than conventional marketing techniques. You can see real-world examples of this with how frequently we see influencers promoting small or startup businesses as this strategy would be more financially acceptable to those models.
With all that said, we have to remember that all this comes with certain risks. Mainly, a misunderstanding of how these components together could cause a business to focus on the wrong things, making the campaign ineffective.
At worst, the campaign could have the opposite, desired effect. If companies could depend on word of mouth to promote their business, the opposite will hold true. Remember, negative reviews have a way of spreading like wildfire.
The point here is that viral marketing is an effective tool, albeit with conditions to be met. It will require some work on your part but it’s effort well invested. As long as you do your homework, you can expect your marketing campaign to fly true.
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