Viral marketing refers to a marketing phenomenon which both encourages and facilitates individuals to pass along a given message mainly because they think it’s useful and should be seen by everybody.
In essence, viral marketing thrives on a high rate of passing across information to different people. Overall growth shoots up at rapid rate if one large proportion of recipients forwards a particular message to another large set of friends. If such pass-along numbers decrease to very low levels, overall growth fizzles very fast.
The benefit of utilizing human channels to pass on a message for marketing is quite obvious – such individuals form the necessary marketing team which happily performs this function at no cost.
How Viral Marketing Functions
There are three primary aspects to a successful viral marketing campaign:
- The Incentive
For any viral marketing initiative to succeed, it needs to award individuals with an incentive for participation in the communication exercise. Such incentive could be a free product or service which would otherwise be of commercial importance (like online ‘disk space’ for free) or other kind of product or service of with a non-commercial value (like a humorous message).
An incentive could take diverse forms as well and the choice made varies with the targeted goals, audience and resources.
- The Channel
This is the means of passing the marketing message to the intended audience to trigger a viral response. This is important in the designing of the message because different channels require different types of messages. A good example is posting a video on Pinterest and a photo on YouTube – disastrous.
The internet is viewed as the ultimate tool of viral marketing due to the low cost it requires for individuals to forward a marketing message of interest. Social media websites and video sharing sites are popular platforms for this.
- Message Design and Incentive
How the target message gets crafted along with its corresponding incentive play an equal role of importance in achieving a successful viral marketing campaign. It is critical to effectively communicate how people will gain from the incentive sufficiently as to motivate them towards affirmative action. A poorly channeled incentive will hardly work. Keeping the information clear and concise aids in articulating benefits of the incentive onto targeted human channels of communication.
Plan of Action
After understanding the principles underlying viral marketing, it then becomes vital knowing how exactly this process can profit a business enterprise. To realize this goal, it might be necessary to seek input from professionals who are skilled in designing such campaigns with effectiveness. These business consultants would be interested in knowing certain aspects as follows:
- Who the campaign targets
- What the campaign aims to attain
Asking these questions should enable them to determine how to conduct the viral marketing endeavor with good prospects of success. It’s all about getting the message to the right people who will share it with more people, and the process is repeated until the message gets to millions of people.
Viral marketing is also termed viral advertising and at times marketing buzz. It mainly employs marketing techniques which utilize pre-existing social networking services and related technologies. The target is producing improved brand awareness or achieving associated marketing objectives via self-replicating viral processes, similar to spread of epidemic or computer viruses.
Viral marketing relies heavily upon word of mouth communication, enhanced by networking effects of mobile and internet networks. Thus, this exercise is personal and does not generally require sponsorship by the initiator in order to be realized. However, a majority of the notable viral ads in online circulation start with funded ads launched either on social media websites or other such platforms where a lot of human interaction takes place.