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What is Viral Marketing?

Until now the last thing you wanted to hear was “internet” and “virus” in the same sentence. A virus is easily spread to unsuspecting bystanders and multiplies exponentially making it very difficult to limit its growth.  Now consider your next marketing piece as a virus. Suddenly it doesn’t sound so insidious instead it insights opportunity. The rise of social media has made viral marketing the modern day “word of mouth.”
YouTube, Facebook and MySpace are hot beds for free and unlimited potential for these campaigns. MSN’s Hotmail is often noted as being the first “viral marketing campaign.” They offered a free email program to anyone willing to enter their name and a little bit of personal information. Before long MSN became the largest single email provider in the world. All of this was made possible by good old fashioned word of mouth….virtual style. People started sending emails asking their friends to sign up, posting blog entries, writing news articles, opening online chat groups and much more. Hotmail’s message was not distributed by advertising dollars rather by their own consumers! This is the essence of viral marketing, using “virtual word of mouth” to market your message. Your practice can easily take hold of this opportunity through the use of online contests, video productions, or participation in targeted forums. For example, we launched a viral marketing campaign for the Eye Doctors of Washington, a LASIK practice in Washington DC.  We created a contest which required that contestants submit a video on the “most creative way to destroy their glasses.” The traffic to their website took off! One of the contestants confessed that her mother actually created flyers and put them on unsuspecting cars in the shopping center asking people to vote for her daughter. Needless to say this virtually “no cost” marketing campaign demonstrated the effectiveness of viral campaigns.
With viral marketing campaigns, the important thing to remember is that just because you “build it” doesn’t mean that “they will come.” You must consider your target audience first. Are you targeting 20 to 30 year olds with disposable income or 40 to 50 year olds with familial responsibilities? These are distinctly different groups that frequent different websites and ultimately have different needs. Like we always say at Rosemont Media, build your website for your consumers first and then the search engines!

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