Small Business Marketing

Elements of Viral Marketing

Written by Charles Mburugu for Gaebler Ventures

Viral marketing refers to any tactic that encourages individuals to convey a marketing message to others, thus creating the possibility of exponential growth in the message's influence and exposure. Like viruses, such tactics take advantage of fast multiplication to blast the message to thousands or millions. Off the internet, viral marketing is known as "creating a buzz", "word-of-mouth", "network marketing" or "leveraging the media". But on the internet, it's called viral marketing. What are the elements of viral marketing?

Some viral marketing strategies are more effective than others.

The following are basic elements that you can include in your strategy. However, the strategy doesn't have to contain all these elements, though the more the elements, the better the results. A successful viral marketing strategy:

Gives away helpful services and products

"Free" is a very important word in the marketer's vocabulary. Most viral marketing strategies give away valuable services or products to attract attention. Free information, free e-mail services, free software programs, and free "cool" buttons. "Inexpensive" or "cheap" may create some interest, but "free" will normally do it faster. Viral marketers exercise delayed gratification. They may not gain today or tomorrow, but if they can create great interest from something free, they are sure to profit soon. Patience is the key. Free attracts eyeballs which then see other valuable things you are selling. Eyeballs bring useful advertising revenue, e-mail addresses, and e-commerce sales openings.

Enables easy transfer to others

Viruses only spread when easy to transmit. The medium carrying your marketing message should be easy to transfer and reproduce: website, e-mail, software download or graphic. Viral marketing works for the internet because instant communication is now easy and cheap. Digital format makes copying easy. From a marketing point of view, you should simplify your marketing message to make it easily transmittable without degradation.

Exploits common behaviors and motivations

Clever viral marketing takes advantage of ordinary human motivations. People are driven by greed, as well as the hunger to be loved, understood and popular. A marketing strategy that relies on common behaviors and motivations for its transmission is very likely to succeed.

Makes use of existing communication networks

Most people are social. According to social scientists, each individual has a network of 8 to 12 people within their close network of family, associates and friends. An individual's broader network may be made up of hundreds or thousands of people. Network marketers understand how powerful these human networks are. On the internet, people have developed networks of relationships. Affiliate programs, as well as permission email lists, exploit such networks. Learn to position your message into existing networks, and the message will be dispersed rapidly.

Makes use of others' resources

Creative viral marketing utilizes others' resources to spread the word. Affiliate programs, for instance, place graphic or text links on others' websites. By giving away free articles, you can position your articles on others' websites. This means someone else's webpage is passing your marketing message.

Charles Mburugu writes for us from his home in Nairobi. He has a graduate degree in Business Management from Kenya Institute of Management. He is interested in writing about branding, CSR and intellectual property.

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