Thursday, 15 December 2016

Viral Marketing

Most companies have heard of the benefits of viral marketing using social media, but few understand how to execute a viral marketing campaign. First, let‟s answer the question: What is a viral marketing campaign?

viral marketing-digitalcot

There‟s a common misconception that viral marketing messages must have millions of page views or attract hundreds of thousands of followers in a short period of time in order to be successful. Unfortunately, very few small to mid-sized companies will ever see this type of success because its market is too small or its products are focused on a niche. Viral marketing campaigns are simply compelling messages that exploit common behaviors and utilize existing networks, that can be transferred effortlessly from personto person on a large scale. The measures of success of a viral marketing campaign must take into account the competitors, resources, and niche of the company.

Now that you know what a viral marketing strategy is, you may be asking: what makes sites, posts, and videos go viral? There are three components behind every viral marketing campaign, and without at least some of each of these three components, success is unlikely. These three components are a large user base, a remarkable message, and a compelling reason to share that message.

Component 1: Building a Large User Base

There are only two ways to get a message to a large group of people: invest a lot of time, or invest a lot of money. If your company is interested in social media, it‟s probably because you want to reach a large user base without having to shell out a lot of cash.

One thing to remember about social media is that it‟s not “free.” Most of the tools are free, and there is a lot of free content explaining how to use social media for your company. Unfortunately, the reality of social media is that it takes time; much more time than, say, creating a banner advertisement. For companies with several employees, time costs money as well.

The good news is that there is no better time to start than today. There are some simple principles to building an online presence on several different networks, and with just a small investment of time each day, you can leverage social media for your business.

Sign-up – This seems so obvious, yet so many companies don‟t even create accounts on the biggest social networks. Even if your company isn‟t yet confident with what it

wants to do with social media, there is no reason not to have, at the least, a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page, and a blog.

Participate – There is no shortcut to becoming a member of a community and developing relationships on each social medium your company uses. Some simple ways to participate include sharing something, asking questions, answering questions, providing tips or hacks, and responding to the community.

Cross-promote – Once your company has published some content on each social media platform, it‟s a good idea to cross-promote each account or profile. For example, place a link to your company‟s Facebook fan page and Twitter account on the company website, place a link to the company blog on the company Twitter page, and import the company blog to the Facebook fan page. That way, when someone finds your company on one medium, they can also find it easily on the other mediums.

Leverage your assets – Your company always has more assets than it realizes. For example, if your company does not have time to create content, maybe it could instead repurpose content. If you have a blog, take one of the posts and turn it into 140 character tips that can be posted on Twitter. If you don‟t have a blog, maybe you have a book or new employee guides that can be repurposed. Maybe you have an employee whose job is to follow trends in the industry, who is consistently reading the latest links or news and could publish those on Twitter or create a blog post quickly. If you think creatively, you can always find something you already have and repurpose it for social media usage.

Case Study of Building a User Base: Alice

All of these tips are great for companies that already have some presence online or an established brand offline. But what if you haven‟t even officially launched your company yet? Even if you don‟t have a product yet, you can still start using social media!

Alice, a start-up company that uses a mail-order system to make sure you never run out of toilet paper and other home essentials, did just that for their June 2009 beta launch. To prepare, the company set up a Twitter account, blog, and Facebook fan page in January 2009. Alice cross-promoted each of these profiles and put up a placeholder website that had limited information about the service and links to the Twitter and Facebook profiles.

Alice built brand awareness on each of these mediums by offering quirky household tips, posting interesting and relevant links, and holding contests and giveaways related to consumer packaged goods that they already had, like shampoo and dog treats. Alice responded to questions and participated in conversations with moms and Gen Y professionals that were likely to use the service. The company even leveraged a simple asset – private beta invitations – by using its social media presence to find people across the United States to participate in a private beta launch and provide feedback to the company.

By the time Alice launched 6 months later, the company had an impressive 2000 Twitter followers, 500 Facebook fans, 200 blog posts, and numerous mentions and links from the blogging community.

This goes to show you the power of signing up early, participating in existing communities, cross-promoting, and leveraging any assets that you have. If Alice can do it without a product or a completed website, your company can too!

Component 2: Creating a remarkable message

There are two basic strategies for creating remarkable messages:

Having a remarkable company or product, and creating several little messages that add up over time

Latching on to another remarkable or compelling product in the form of doing a giveaway or contest to generate buzz

Truth be told, a good social media strategy incorporates both of these strategies to optimize budget, resources, and get the best results possible.

Several Little Messages that Add Up – Don‟t fall into the trap of needing that one big idea to create a viral campaign. In fact, creating several consistent and compelling messages over time can also add up to being generally remarkable, and generate just as much traffic and business and sales.

To figure out what makes your company remarkable, consider that most companies compete on one of these four attributes: time, price, quality, or variety. This is not to say a company can‟t be attractive on more than one of these dimensions, but the most successful companies stand out especially on one attribute alone.

For example, Alice competes on time. The concept is that you can automate your regular purchases and save time making lists of things you need or making

unnecessary trips to the store. Likewise, a search engine called OneRiot also competes on time: it returns search results on the most newly-created content by scanning Twitter, Digg, and other social services, to deliver real-time, socially-driven results.

The point is that by looking at how your company competes, you can easily figure out what remarkable messages you want to broadcast. Though both these companies compete on time, each does it in its own way. Alice uses household hacks to engage its audience, while OneRiot uses a constant stream of (literally) up-to-the-minute news and

“first look” updates. Both of these companies create compelling messages for their audiences: moms looking to save time in the household, and people obsessed with knowing the news first, respectively.

Here are some of the simplest compelling messages your company can create:

Links to interesting news, media, or content

Tips, tricks, or hacks

Questions, polls, or surveys

Collaborations between experts in a niche

Case Study of Creating Many Remarkable Messages: Careerealism

Careerealism is an online resource for men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 who are in need of career advice. The company‟s Twitter strategy utilizes many small but remarkable messages that add up over time to more followers, more sharing on Twitter, and ultimately, more traffic to the website.

Careerealism shares links from online newspapers, blogs, and other media outlets that are relevant to the company‟s audience: young professionals looking for jobs. Most of
the links are related to career or employment. For every 5 links Careerealism tweets from other sources, it tweets 1 link from its own website. This helps Careerealism build credibility and come across as an expert source, rather than a feed full of self-promoting tweets.

Careerealism also interacts with readers and career experts by sponsoring the Twitter

Advice Project, or T.A.P. How it works is Careerealism tweets a reader‟s question, then asks several career experts to tweet their answers. Careerealism retweets the answers using a tool called TweetBots so all of its readers can see. Careerealism also summarizes all the answers in a blog post, which is later posted on the website for subscribers.

Careerealism creates a lot of interesting content quickly using these tactics, and over time, has gained substantial traction. Careerealism has over 10,000 followers on Twitter and over 10,000 visitors per month to its website!

One Big Message: Giveaways and Contests – Still not sure how to turn your company‟s strategy or products into a remarkable message? No need to stress – you can always use a giveaway.

Giveaways are the ultimate way to create a compelling message in social media, especially when the items being given away are highly anticipated or highly valued. Popular giveaway items at the moment include the iPhone (or anything that Apple makes), the Flip camera, plane tickets, donations to charity, or even cash. In general, goods valued at $200 or more, especially electronics, work well.

Example: Orbitz more than doubled its followers on Twitter by offering one free airline ticket to a lucky follower. In 6 hours, its follower count went from 2,600 to 5,600! If you want to calculate return on investment of a $500 plane ticket, Orbitz “paid” less than $0.17 per Twitter follower. That‟s much less than a banner ad would cost, and there‟s no telling how many more people Orbitz reached beyond the fractional 3,000 people that actually took action and followed them.

Case Study on the Power of Giveaways: I Will Teach You to Be Rich

Ramit Sethi recently launched a personal finance book called I Will Teach You to Be Richonto the New York Times Bestseller list. Because the bestseller list is based on sales within a certain time period, part of Ramit‟s book launch strategy included a giveaway to anyone who purchased his book on or before its launch day and sent a copy of their receipt to Ramit via email. On the day his book came out, Ramit had a live streaming video where people could call in and ask him questions, and he answered them on air and via his Twitter account. During this live streaming video, Ramit did several giveaways, including prizes of $1000 and several Amazon Kindles. The money prize tied in well with his book because he billed it as “$1000 to jumpstart your personal finances.” As a result of these prize giveaways, Ramit was able to sell thousands of copies of his book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, within just a few days of its release.

Component 3: Crafting a compelling reason to share

Finally, every viral marketing campaign gives people a compelling reason to share.

That‟s where the name “viral marketing” comes from – the message becomes like a virus, where one person tells three people and the message multiplies and disperses.

Here are some key tips that will help your company give people a reason to share the message:

Use brand evangelists – Brand evangelists are people who are more fanatic than the average person would be about your brand or product. Apple is the classic example of a company that can build a cult-like user base. Your company may not be Apple, but if you have an email list or newsletter, let those people get your message first. It might be worthwhile to create a special email list for people who want to be in the know about your company.

Ask people to spread the message – Part of your company‟s message should be a gentle reminder to people to share it. If it is a giveaway, make sharing a part of the requirements to be eligible.If it is a poll or a contest, let people enter and get their friends to vote publicly on a social network like Twitter. Don‟t just expect people to share something, give them an incentive to share so that the message spreads.

Make sharing easy – For blog posts, you can make it easier to share something by placing buttons at the bottom of the post, such as “Share on Facebook” or “Vote on Digg.” For Twitter, you can make sharing easier by keeping the message at around 120 characters, which allows people to retweet you without having to modify the message. No matter what the medium, it‟s important to make transferring information as effortless as possible.

Give sharing a push – If you are doing a big push and have a group of people who are willing to trade votes with you on social networking sites, feel free to ask for a vote during a certain time period. Don‟t use this option often though – only when you know

the message is compelling. Some sharing sites, such as StumbleUpon, also have a way to purchase hits. If you notice a blog post doing well on StumbleUpon, you can help it along by paying $0.05 per targeted hit from its user base. If your message is compelling, those people will vote for your content and the extra push may help your company get to StumbleUpon‟s front page, which will send loads of traffic to your site.

Utilize existing resources – Take advantage of others‟ resources by integrating communication networks into your message. For example, posts that talk heavily about Twitter tend to do very well on Twitter; the same goes for every social network or bookmarking site. If you can incorporate the medium into your message, it is more likely to be shared.

Case Study of Leveraging Your Assets: Threadless

An interesting application of utilizing existing resources to create a compelling reason to share is what t-shirt company Threadless did when it launched the Twitter Tees section of its site. Threadless is an online retailer of t-shirts that lets its community vote on user-submitted designs (a concept called crowdsourcing). The designs that get the most votes end up getting printed by Threadless for retail.

So how did Threadless gain over 700,000 followers on Twitter and tons of publicity? It utilized its existing voting system and created a special section of its sitecalled Twitter Tees where people could submit funny tweets to be printed on t-shirts. The company already had the voting technology, already had the printing capacity, already had the online store, and already had a customer base. It used the resources it already had and created a compelling tie-in to a popular social networking service. It gave people a

reason to share the message, because the only way to vote for a shirt is to tweet your vote. Finally, Threadless was able to secure some advertising in the top right corner of

Twitter‟s network – advertising that is viewed by tens of millions of Twitter users every day.