Applying Internet Viral Marketing Principles

Internet viral marketing is an idea that intrigues most marketing professionals today but is not something that most of them think can be easily accomplished. That being the case, let me suggest that it is still possible to benefit from the idea by applying some of its concepts to your present sales and marketing activities. While you may or may not end up going viral, you can still make use of the principles and practices that make viral marketing such a powerful force in business today.

Internet Viral Marketing

My article on what Internet viral marketing is provides a breakdown of the fundamental characteristics of this powerful concept. Now that you know that the ingredients of a successful viral marketing campaign are networks, passability and remarkability, we can talk about how you can put these concepts to use for yourself in order to generate greater sales and marketing success (...and who knows, actually go viral?).

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Internet Viral Marketing: Using Networks

The power of word of mouth advertising is that it uses existing social networks and people marketing to each other. Viral marketing takes this a step further by using the power of the Internet in order to provide access to almost unlimited numbers of people instantaneously. Here are some of the characteristics of networks and how to use online networks to your advantage in building your brand and spreading your message.

• Medium

Your viral message will be transmitted primarily via e-mail, blogging - or other online publishing - and social networks. It may be appropriate and even advisable to form or join a social networking group or other forum in order to disseminate your message although this is not always necessary. The basic ingredient is that you have a way of connecting with people online who will then utilize their own online networks and communication tools.

Think about what the best way might be for you and your business to connect with online communities. Despite its success, social media marketing is not for every business, just like any other approach to online marketing. You should not undertake a viral marketing strategy within a certain online medium just because it is cool or talked about. Rather, look to see what online media are best suited to your business and message and what existing networks you can best interact with meaningfully.

Internet Viral Marketing

• Message

A viral message may be text, pictures, videos, websites, articles, podcasts or any other method of online communication. Make sure to adapt your message to electronic communication and think about the best form to "put it out there" in order to gain traction in your online network(s) of choice. A basic ingredient for Internet viral marketing is that people must be able to communicate your message electronically.

It may be advisable to utilize multiple online networks and a number of forms of online communication in order to create an integrated viral marketing campaign. In this case, as always, you must work to ensure that you communicate a unified message via your e-mails, website, posts and other online communications so that your brand is emphasized and not diluted.

• Don't Market

The key to Internet viral marketing and social media marketing in general is that you should try and make your message conversational. If you try and sell or market to the members of an online network you will usually run into resistance and a negative reaction. This is just like if you went to a real life networking meeting – say, a book club - and did the same thing. Sure, you can sometimes be invited to present to the members of a group but that is not what you are after with viral marketing.

Internet Viral Marketing

Your goal is to become one of the group members inasmuch as understanding the culture and language of the group. Once you have won the confidence of a key group of stakeholders then you should find a way to impart your message in the most personable way possible. People on social networking sites and other online forums do not want to see sterile sales pitches and marketing messages but rather want to connect with other people.

Internet Viral Marketing: Creating Passability

Following on from the fact that your message must be electronic to begin with, you must also make sure that it is easy for people to pass it on to others. Online communication from e-mail to posting on Twitter are actually designed for easy forwarding to others – another reason why viral marketing is so powerful – and here are some other tips to help you:

• Build it in

You probably run into examples of built in passability all the time in terms of e-mails, websites, postings, pictures and videos encouraging you to comment, share, embed, tag, link to or pass the message along and / or add your thoughts in some other shape or form. The goal of these features is to get you talking in order to create interest and generate buzz.

A friend of mine once described Facebook as an "online party" and it still strikes me how appropriate that description is. Interacting with others online is a massive phenomena and highly addictive. I would say we are fast approaching the day when we spend more time interacting with people online than in real life! Make sure you facilitate this fact in transmitting your message by including passability features and then encouraging others to pass it along.

Internet Viral Marketing

• Simplify

Few people are going to forward a 10-page thesis to friends, which is why your internet viral marketing message should be as simple as possible (unless you are Google, who announced the release of their Chrome Internet browser with an ingenious 40-page comic book that explains its features and innovations in detail). If someone cannot get what you are trying to say in just a few seconds then your message may be too long or complicated.

Simplifying your message is where your messaging skills come into play. How can you condense your idea or message into a single, irreducible concept and then use marketing flash and bang in order to emphasize just that one point? Some of the best advertisements may be outrageous but the message they convey is always simple.

• Repeat

Persistence is the tried and true foundation of all sales and marketing success! As much as we would like to have instant success when we talk to a customer or broadcast our Internet viral marketing message, it will rarely be the case that we see the kind of results that will be immediately extraordinary. Rather, results usually come during a long process of ongoing activity where we release periodic micro-messages that emphasize our overall brand.

Just like it usually takes a few books or movies for authors or actors to "hit it big", it may be a while before a specific micro-message that you put out there "takes off" and becomes a hit in a given online community. However, you will be able to continue to adjust your message over time and build on what works. Seek to interact rather than transact and remember that understanding your customers is just as important as them understanding you.

Internet Viral Marketing: Being Remarkable

Internet Viral Marketing

As well as making sure that your message has passability built in from a technical perspective, you must also try and make it so that people want to pass it on! Your message will only be remarkable if it is useful, interesting or entertaining. There are plenty of examples – some of which I cover in my Viral Marketing Flops article – of large, well-funded companies spending lots of money on a slick viral marketing attempt that fizzle. Here is some help with being remarkable:

• Use Characters

If you have the resources to plan an elaborate advertising or marketing gimmick then a tried and tested formula is to use characters (think Michelin Man!). A character may be a spokesperson for your cause or even just an unwitting participant in scenarios you create. People relate to characters, themes and stories and so use these to make your message larger than life.

What will separate your message from millions of other marketing messages is giving it life. I talk about the idea of developing a Marketing Personality in order to make your business more personable and to be able to speak better to people's lifestyles and values. Can you incorporate some of these concepts into your message? At the very least keep in mind that your message must be conversational and like talking to a friend.

• Be More

If the 4 elements of remarkability are being funny, interesting, entertaining or useful then ask yourself: how can I be more? The best examples of Internet viral marketing are when companies succeed in creating remarkably funny, interesting or useful messages (or services) that are inextricably linked with the product, service or idea they are promoting.

A great way to foster remarkability is by offering a free benefit that is tied into your main line of business. It may be inexpensive for your to offer but can provide your casual users with immense value that they will then recommend to others. This offering is a loss leader because you give something away for free in order to attract visitors, customers and users, many of whom will end up paying for your premium offerings.

Situationalize it

A lot of great advertising is tied into a specific event or location and you can use the same techniques in order to make your messaging more remarkable. Think about those ingenious ads on bus stops or at gyms which somehow tie the message into the physical placement of the ad. If you think about it, you can tie your message into any appropriate person, place, object or theme in order to get traction and create interest.

Examples of themes may be a sporting event, big news story or even the current economic woes many people are facing. If people are already talking about it then you may be able to piggyback on that remarkability by providing a new perspective, humor or useful benefit to help people in some way. You can even create any number of real life examples of how your product, service or idea can help people in their day-to-day lives.

Internet Viral Marketing

Get help with Internet Viral Marketing ideas for your business!

What is Internet Viral Marketing?Viral Marketing SuccessesViral Marketing FlopsViral Marketing TipsSocial Media Marketing FundamentalsSocial Media Marketing PrinciplesSocial Media Marketing TipsTop Social Media Marketing BrandsSocial Media Marketing StrategiesViral Marketing Consultant

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