Viral Marketing: what it is, and how to apply it to your business

In our world, where the most available medium is the Internet, Viral Marketing is a very effective form of advertising. Before the Internet, this type of advertising would have been spread by your customers through word of mouth.

Viral Marketing Defined

What does a virus have to do with marketing? Viral Marketing describes any strategy that encourages people to communicate a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, if not millions of people.

Outside of the Internet, Viral Marketing has been referred to as "word of mouth," "creating a buzz," "leveraging the media," and "network marketing." But on the Internet, for better or worse, it’s called "Viral Marketing."

Why Use Viral Marketing?

The purpose of Viral Marketing is to entice customers with a product or service that you can give them for a trial period or for free altogether. The attraction to the customer is that there are no strings attached. However, before the customers can use the free product or service, they have to sign up through your website. Now, you have a win-win situation. The customer is now able to use the product and you have generated a new lead for your business. Your list of leads sends messages to people who have experienced your product and will be able to tell their friends about it. Subsequently, those friends will tell other friends about your products and services. If your customers have had a positive experience with your products and services, most likely, they will become loyal customers who keep returning to you in addition to bringing in more prospects.

There are various Viral Marketing techniques from which you can choose. The choices are having emails sent to people to pass onto their friends, interesting videos to be watched and to be followed by link to your website, articles of interesting topics, or blog posts that talk about your business. Just like a virus, as the Email is transmitted from one person to another, the attached message is transmitted with it. On the Internet, one strategically placed message can reach millions of people with one click of the mouse. On the other hand; however, you need to be careful of the types of messages that you put on the Internet. Because of the extremely rapid pace of the transmission of information online, negative messages will spread just as quickly as positive ones, which can potentially be damaging to your business.

Key Points of Viral Marketing Strategy

Some Viral Marketing strategies work better than others, and few strategies work as well as the simple strategy. Here are some key Viral Marketing strategy points that you should include in your strategy. A Viral Marketing strategy doesn’t necessarily have to contain all of these elements, but the more elements it embraces, the more powerful the results are likely to be.

*Give away valuable products or services The majority of Viral Marketing programs give away valuable products or services in order to attract the attention of the existing and potential customers. Free Email services, free information, free software programs that perform sophisticated functions but not as much as you get in the "pro" version. Cheap or inexpensive may generate a wave of interest, but free will generally accomplishes it much quicker. Free attracts visitors. Visitors then see other desirable things that you are selling, and, you start to earn money. Visitors bring valuable Email addresses, advertising revenue, and Ecommerce sales opportunities.

*Make people feel something A most important strategy is to create a very strong emotion. You need to have an opinion, to express an idea with commitment and dedication. You want people’s blood to be pumping with excitement. Viral Marketing is 100% about emotions.

*Do something unexpected This is self-explanatory. If you want people to notice your campaign, you have to do something that stands out – something unexpected. Forget about trying to promote your products as just being great – everybody does that. Forget about trying to make it look cool – everybody else has already gone down that road.

*Provide for easy transfer to others Viruses only spread when they’re easy to transmit. The medium that carries your marketing message must be easy to transfer and replicate: Email, website, graphic, software download. Viral Marketing works very well on the Internet because instant communication has become so easy and inexpensive. Digital formats make copying simple. From a marketing standpoint, you must simplify your marketing message so that it can be transmitted easily and without degradation. Use compelling short messages and place them at the bottom of every Email message.

*Do not try to make bad advertisements One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is thinking that Viral Marketing is just advertisements that people share – it is not. Viral Marketing is all about a good story. Forget about you, your product, or your company. Focus entirely on creating a good and interesting story. Of course, you can add your product into the mix, but it must not be the most important thing.

*Have a good understanding of your customers If you know your customer base, your Viral Marketing will be more successful. You should track and analyze what induces them to want to pass along your message. Clever Viral Marketing plans take advantage of common human motivation. Design a marketing strategy that builds on common motivations and behaviors for its transmission and you have a winner. If you can identify who your customer is, this Viral Marketing can be quite inexpensive and highly effective. Questionnaires and online surveys and can also be very helpful in getting inside of your customer’s head. The questionnaires and survey can and should be your most valuable resource when it comes to understanding what your customers want. Giving meticulous consideration to your customer’s needs and the promise to meet those needs is what will ultimately make your business a success.

*Use existing communication and social networks Most people are social. Each person has a network of 8 to 12 people in their close network of friends, family, and associates. A person’s broader network may consist of hundreds or thousands of people. Learn to place your message into existing communications between people, and you will rapidly multiply the Viral Marketing dispersion.

*Connect with comments Another important concept is to connect with your audience. Remember, you got their attention, they are excited, and now they want to talk. Comments are one of the most effective ways to do this.

Keep in mind that the best Viral Marketing campaign is one that creates a strong emotion. This means some people will really like it – while others will get very angry. You have to accept both in your comments, and you have to welcome both opinions. But, at the same time, you must prevent individuals from waging war against each other. And, most importantly, connecting with people through comments means responding. Do not add comments if you do not want to participate yourself.

*Take advantage of the resources of others The most creative Viral Marketing plans use other people’s resources to get the word out. Affiliate programs, for example, place text or graphic links on other websites. Authors who give away free articles seek to position their articles on other web pages. A news release can be picked up by hundreds of periodicals and form the basis of articles seen by hundreds of thousands of readers. Now, someone else’s newsprint or webpage is relaying your marketing message. Someone else’s resources are depleted rather than your own.

Consider partnering in a joint venture. See the section on Joint Ventures in this Website. If you have a joint venture, complete the proposal form and submit it to me (Timothy Hillebrand, Ph.D. at


Viral Marketing can do well for your business. It can help generate more traffic and more income. People are lured to your site so you have to be creative in your Viral Marketing campaign. An important thing that is of concern, though, is that although Viral Marketing is an extremely effective tool and it is something to include in your list of online marketing strategies, the basic marketing rules still apply. Understand your products and services. Understand which demographics you are targeting. Have a clear understanding of your customers’ needs and on which products and services they will most likely spend their money as well as what will make them continue to return to you as customers. And, most importantly, figure out how what you have to offer them will make them bring their friends with them to you when they do return.

To learn more about how Viral Marketing is essential to the success of your business, please visit us at CompuKol Communications.

This entry was written by Michael Cohn, posted on September 10, 2009 at 9:04 am, and filed under Internet Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Viral Marketing and tagged advertising, Internet Marketing, Social Media, Viral Marketing.