Viral marketing has burst on to the internet scene with a vengeance. Funny how you can use the term "viral" and "computer" in the same sentence now and have it be something positive. Let's start this out by giving a definition of viral marketing followed by a few examples. Wikipedia defines viral marketing or viral advertising to be "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". Basically, what that means is advertising in the form of word-of-mouth. People who like (or dislike) a product, service, or other item and then tell others. The concept itself is far from new but its application online takes on new meaning with the ability people now have to communicate with thousands of people in a matter of seconds.
One of the most common forms of viral marketing has become the uploading of video content. You'll see this all the time as a funny or cute video might get millions of views on a site such as YouTube. Companies have discovered quickly that this form of advertising may be just as effective, if not possibly even more effective, than television commercials. At the very least, it is far less expensive. We have all received emails in the past from a friend who has seen a funny video, or a joke, or a picture online and then they send it out to everyone in their address book. This too, is viral marketing, albeit a spontaneous form and perhaps not pre-planned.
Of course, there can also be negative ramifications to this phenomenon. If someone does not like your product, service, etc... it is fairly easy to start a viral campaign which is negative.
So, if you have a business or product that you are looking to promote, how would you go about starting a viral marketing campaign? The first step is that you have to get content out online. However, if your content is purely self promotion, then you probably will not see the "virus" spread too quickly. Instead, the content must be interesting, funny, cute, intriguing, helpful, philanthropic, and/or stimulating. People will need a reason to pass it on. Sometimes simple is better, and short never hurts either as most folks always seem to be in a hurry. You are going to need to be creative and original and prepare for some trial and error. However, when you get it right, it will all be worth the effort so be persistent!
Hopefully this article has cleared up any confusion that you might have had about viral marketing. If so, help me to make this article go "viral" and pass it along to someone you know or post it on your Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace page and socially bookmark it out there too!
As always, I wish you the best of success!