Sunday, 19 April 2009

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, to millions.

Off the Internet, viral marketing has been referred to as "word-of-mouth," "creating a buzz," "leveraging the media," "network marketing." But on the Internet, it's called "viral marketing.

Viral Marketing and Viral Advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet.

Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages. The basic form of viral marketing is not infinitely sustainable.

The goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to identify individuals with high Social Networking Potential (SNP) and create Viral Messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being passed along.

The term Viral Marketing was coined by a Harvard Business School graduate, Tim Draper. The term was later popularized by Tim Draper and Steve Jurvetson of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 1997 to describe Hotmail's e-mail practice of appending advertising for itself in outgoing mail from their users., one of the first free Web-based e-mail services applied this strategy, which is simple:

1. Give away free e-mail addresses and services,

2. Attach a simple tag at the bottom of every free message sent out: "Get your private, free email at" and,

3. Then stand back while people e-mail to their own network of friends and associates,

4. Who see the message,

5. Sign up for their own free e-mail service, and then

6. Propel the message still wider to their own ever-increasing circles of friends and associates.

Viral marketing is popular because of the ease of executing the marketing campaign, relative low-cost (compared to direct mail), good targeting, and the high and rapid response rate. The main strength of viral marketing is its ability to obtain a large number of interested people at a low cost.

Viral advertising refers to the idea that people will pass on and share interesting and entertaining content; this is often sponsored by a brand, which is looking to build awareness of a product or service.

These are few types of Viral Marketing–

Ø Pass-along: A message which encourages the user to send the message to others. The crudest form of this is chain letters where a message at the bottom of the e-mail prompts the reader to forward the message.

Ø Incentivised viral: A reward is offered for either passing a message along or providing someone else's address. This can dramatically increase referrals. However, this is most effective when the offer requires another person to take action.

Ø Edgy Gossip/Buzz marketing" ads or messages that create controversy by challenging the borders of taste or appropriateness. Discussion of the resulting controversy can be considered to generate buzz and word of mouth advertising. Prior to releasing a movie, some Hollywood movie stars get married, get divorced, or get arrested, or become involved in some controversy that directs conversational attention to them.

Ø User-managed database: Users create and manage their own lists of contacts using a database provided by an online service provider. By inviting other members to participate in their community, users create a viral, self-propagating chain of contacts that naturally grows and encourages others to sign up as well.

The assumption is that if such an advertisement reaches a "susceptible" user, that user will become "infected" (i.e., accept the idea) and will then go on to share the idea with others "infecting them," in the viral analogy's terms.

Related article: Guerilla Marketing

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