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And the Buzz Goes On - How to Use Viral Marketing

Mar 21, 2008
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of how you can use viral marketing to help get a buzz going about your small business, let's start with a definition of exactly what "viral marketing" means.

According to the Wikipedia, "Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use preexisting social networks to produce increases in brand awareness, through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral marketing is a marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message voluntarily. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, images, or even text messages."

If you've ever had a hotmail, yahoo or G-mail account, you've participated in a viral marketing campaign every time you sent an email to someone - because the company inserted a small (and usually discreet advertisement) at the bottom of all of your outgoing emails - inviting the people you were communicating with to receive their own free email account.

So how can you put a viral marketing campaign together for your own business - and more importantly, do you even want to?

Let me answer that second question first, okay? YES! You definitely want to take the time to brainstorm your own viral marketing campaign - even if you don't someday want to be as big as hotmail, yahoo or Gmail.

Why? Because according to a recent survey done by Forrester Research, people are almost 65% more likely to trust a review posted by a peer - or even a complete stranger - than they are to trust the marketing or sales information put out by the company.

Don't believe me? Check out Amazon.com and I-tunes. Why is this the case? Because as consumers we tend to think that the average "Joe Blow" has less of a personal agenda when posting his review about the latest "Dixie Chicks" album and so we give it more weight.

And, by the way, this is a normal reaction - it's one that's kind of hard-wired into all of us. People have always shared the things they like - or hate - with their friends and family members. Back in the 50's and 60's, our grandparents used to talk to their neighbors over the "back fence," call each other on the phone or tell their friends during lunch. The difference is, these days we use the Internet and cell phones.

What's interesting though, is that with the popularity of the Internet, our trust - and believe in "social proof" - has become even stronger.

By creating your own viral marketing campaign, you'll be doing more than getting the word out about your new affiliate product. You'll be gathering social proof - and that will help your sales to go through the roof.

So how do you set up your own viral marketing campaign? The first thing to do is to get back to the basics.

Here's the real "secret" to making a lot of money with affiliate products. Have the right product, with the right message to the right people in the right time.

So start with your affiliate product. Make sure that there's a hungry audience for whatever you're selling.

Then make sure that you're sending out the right message - and in the right way. If you're marketing a product to teens, you'll want to make sure that it's something they want - and you'll have to reach them where they're hanging out. That might be on MySpace, twitter or even Friendster.

What's the right message? Maybe it's a special report. But it could just as easily be a video. Or an audio mp3 file. Match your message to your audience. And finally, make sure that you're getting your message out at the right time - when your audience is ready to buy it.

Make your viral marketing campaign stand out from the crowd - because that's how it's going to get passed around and become viral. By understanding the basics - who your audience is, what they want, how they want to get it and when they want it - all you have to do next is to create something that your audience loves - or hates - or finds interesting enough - to pass around to their friends. And because your product comes with an implied endorsement - social proof - those people will pass it around to other people - and the buzz goes on and on and on and you'll start hearing the "ka-ching!" of your cash register going off a lot more often.
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