Hotmail, one of the very first web-based email services, is the classic example of something that, while it sounds sinister, is actually an incredibly smart way to market something; viral marketing. Indeed viral marketing, like an actual virus, is supposed to spread easily, quickly and silently until, before anyone even knows what has happened, the product or service that the viral marketing message sent has flourished and multiplied greatly.
It’s an excellent idea, to be sure, but in fact there are 6 elements that actually need to be in place before a marketing campaign starts in order to for it to ‘go viral’. Leave one of them out and, while the message may get out to the public, it won’t make the kind of waves that Hotmail, and many others, have made. It’s also worth noting that there is NO WAY to guarantee that a campaign WILL go ‘viral’. However, having these 6 components in place might make that outcome much more likely.
- You must give away something valuable. Let’s face it, the word ‘free’ is extremely powerful. Giving away something may sound mad but, the fact is, is creates such an interest that a groundswell of interest in the product or company is produced that can propel it to great profitability. Because simply put, when you give, you get. Lots of people signing up for your free whatever means lots of email addresses to send your other products an increase actual sales. Hotmail gave away their email platform for free and a note at the bottom of every email sent told people how to get there won free email. Genius.
- You must make it easy to share or transmit. A virus can only spread when it can easily spread. Whatever your message, product or service make it so easy to share / spread it around that it’s effortless. Via email, a free program, a software download or on a website. On the internet communication is instant and cheap. Use that to your advantage.
- The method of transmission must be easily scalable. The fact is, when you start you’re going to be starting very small and may not need heavy infrastructure to handle it. But, if your message does start ‘going viral’, you’d better be prepared to handle it because if you can’t your little virus is going to meet a quick demise. The only weakness of the famous Hotmail example was that, as email users start growing exponentially, servers are needed to host them. Make sure you have enough to handle the load, whatever that load may become.
- Your message must exploit common human behaviors. Greed. Vanity. The desire to be ‘liked’. Exploit one of these common (mis) behaviors so that people will really desire what you have and your little virus is going to spread much faster and much wider. (Facebook ‘like’ button, anyone?)
- Your message must utilize existing communication networks. Give your message something to ‘piggy back’ on and it will spread a lot faster. Use it in social media, for example, and let others do the work of transmitting it for you. Hotmail used email. Genius.
- Your message needs to take advantage of the resources of others. The best example here is an affiliate program where text and graphics link to other websites. If you can somehow place your message on hundreds, then thousands and then millions of websites, websites that you don’t own or control but yet have your marketing message somehow placed on them, your viral message will have done its job perfectly.
These are the key elements that have helped grow the reach of my clients campaigns. If you have other suggestions to creating viral MAGIC be sure to comment below. Good luck and remember that if you want your campaign to spread like a virus you need to think like a virus. The best part is there are no antibiotics necessary!