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Viral Marketing & Small Business: Quick Start


I don’t know about you, but I find the virus-epidemic movies thoroughly fascinating and engaging. I recently watched “Contagion”, while I cannot pretend to know anything about the medical aspect I think that it is still fascinating how the virus spreads…

But how does that apply to business? Have you heard the phrase “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 or millions

Viral marketing is a very clever tactic that was started by Hotmail in the late 90s. Hotmail attached an ad at the bottom of every email sent through them, promoting their “free” service to every email person who received an email from someone who was already using their service. You Tube is another early example of viral marketing success – everytime a video was (and is!) shared it will bring users back to YouTube and recommend other similar videos.

Seth Godin (one of my marketing role models) says this about Viral Marketing

Something being viral is not, in and of itself, viral marketing. Who cares that 32,000,000 people saw your stupid video? If It didn't market you or your business in a tangible, useful way.

Being viral isn't the hard part. The hard part is making that viral element actually produce something of value, not just entertainment for the client or your boss.

For a message to be viral-ready, it must be:

  • Relevant to the audience, as well as your product, service or promotion.
  • Focused on only one thing (e.g. focus on discount, rather than listing every item discounted).
  • Short and to the point.
  • Formatted for easy forwarding via many social networks and channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, text message). Providing the links to forward the message through these channels is a plus. Example: Send this article to Twitter
  • Risk-free for the reputation of the forwarder.
  • Also, the customer must stand to gain something by passing along the message, even if it is just the satisfaction of sharing a discount or a laugh.

Your first, or even your 50th, “buzz-worthy” message may not go viral -- and that's okay. Not every Facebook Status update or Tweet will be shared or even clicked on.

Think about ways you can spread your virus through traditional methods. Try something “old fashioned” like a punch card or a paper newsletter or a paper coupon that the person doing the referring on can write their name on… Or try a hybrid create a QR code with your message and have it printed up on postcards or business cards and leave them everywhere!

The biggest point is DO NOT GIVE UP if one message doesn’t work. Keep trying until you find something that strikes a chord with your audience.  Remember, customers, like viral marketing, are unpredictable.

Photo Credit: (Under Creative Commons)

Tagged in: viral marketing


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Guest Wednesday, 21 February 2018