Posted April 12, 2007 10:00 am by with 24 comments

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By Paul Steinbrueck.

There are many Internet marketing strategies these days, but by far the most powerful and explosive is viral marketing.

What is Viral Marketing?
Viral marketing, also sometimes referred to as buzz marketing or word of mouth marketing, is a category of marketing where the strategy is to spread the message by word of mouth, so awareness spreads exponentially like a virus. People tell their friends, who tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on. While viral marketing has existed for decades, the Internet has expanded the reach and rate a viral campaign can spread, and Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and Digg have taken viral marketing to a whole new level.

To demonstrate the power of viral marketing, my company, OurChurch.Com, launched the AIDS Clickathon viral marketing campaign in conjunction with this article to serve as a case study.

The Goal
Help HIV/AIDS victims, Children in AfricaTwo good friends of mine, Joseph and Molly Bail, are moving to Kenya this year to start a home for AIDS-orphaned children. They need to raise $50,000 to build the orphanage. I want to help raise money for that, their living expenses, and other AIDS-related efforts.

Viral Marketing Concept: Concept is Everything
95% of a viral marketing campaign’s success is determined by the concept. If the idea was to simply tell people what Joseph and Molly are doing and ask for a donation, I could leverage every social networking site on the web and the results would probably be minimal. For a viral marketing campaign to work, it has to be something cool, interesting, or unusual enough that when people see it they immediately want to tell their friends about it.

The AIDS Clickathon is just such an idea. What if just by clicking money would be donated to help children in Africa orphaned by AIDS? No donation necessary. Wouldn’t you click? And wouldn’t you tell your friends to go there? I would.

Involving other companies and non-profits as sponsors and doing the clickathon in conjunction with the Marketing Pilgrim search marketing competition will further propogate the viral marketing campaign. There are many influential bloggers in the search marketing community who share my compassion for children impacted by the AIDS pandemic in Africa and I hope some of them find this campaign worth blogging about.

Viral Marketing Strategies: Launching the Viral
With an innovative concept in place, most of the remainder of a viral marketing campaign is a matter of facilitating the spread of the message through as many avenues as possible. Here are some of the viral marketing strategies we employed.

  1. Search engines. Search engines are a great source of visitors. We did keyword research on the main web page of the campaign as well as this article and optimized the text for both pages.
  2. Campaign Blog. We thought people might be interested to read about the details as the AIDS Clickathon progresses, so we created an AIDS Clickathon blog for that purpose. It’s integrated with an RSS feed, social bookmarking links, Technorati, and MyBlogLog.
  3. MySpace. MySpace is the largest social networking site in the world, so we created a MySpace profile for the campaign.
  4. YouTube. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million, so we created a short video, uploaded it to YouTube, embedded it in our main campaign page, and asked people to watch, rate, and comment on it.
  5. Digg & social bookmarking. We encourage readers of this article to scroll down to the bottom of the page and next to where it says “social bookmarking” select “Digg It” from the drop down list. We also added a Digg and social bookmarking links to the Clickathon page.
  6. Directory submissions. Directory listings can bring visitors as well as help with search rankings, so we submitted the article and the AIDS Clickathon page to directories.
  7. Press release. Getting the press to write about the AIDS clickathon would really help to spread the word, so we wrote a press release and submitted it through several online press release services.
  8. Friend release. A friendly, informal email sent to friends and family, which they can forward to their friends. Makes it easy for them and thus more likely they’ll tell others. Plus it gives us the opportunity to shape the messag going out.
  9. Our website. The OurChurch.Com website gets thousands of hits each day, so we placed links to the AIDS Clickathon in prominent places on our site.
  10. Our Blog. OurChurch.Com publishes the Christian Web Trends blog that focuses on utilizing Internet technology in Christian ministry. The clickathon and this article will make great blog topics.
  11. Related websites, blogs, and forums. We searched for and contacted influential websites, blogs, and forums that are already working to bring attention and relief to the AIDS pandemic in Africa.
  12. Tell people how they can help. We specifically listed 9 ways people could help spread the word on the AIDS Clickathon page. Some of these things may seem like no-brainers, but the reality is most people would only think of a few of them on their own.

Ongoing Viral Marketing Strategies
Once the viral marketing tools are in place and the campaign has been launched, the rest of the campaign is out of your hands… Almost. You never know who might contact you, write about the campaign, or contribute in some other way. A good viral campaign manager keeps his or her eyes open for unexpected opportunities to build on the campaign’s momentum. It’s these opportunities that are the focus of the AIDS Clickathon blog.

Proof is in the Pudding
Finally, one nice thing about this article is we don’t have to resort to speculative arguments about the effectiveness of the techniques described. When the SEM contest and AIDS Clickathon are over the results will speak for themselves.

[This has been an entry for Marketing Pilgrim’s SEM Scholarship contest. Keep up to date with all entries and other marketing news by subscribing to our rss feed.]

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  • Kurt

    Viral Marketing is one of the more exciting forms of marketing today and also one of the more nerve racking. The potential is almost unlimited. Though difficult, if done successfully the end result can be phenomenal sales or even taking a company/product from nothing to a house-hold term.

  • Very cool. A viral campaign on fighting a virus. Let’s get the word of this cause to spread quicker than the virus itself!!

  • Pam

    For more information about Molly and Joseph’s vision you can visit the Springs of Hope website at


  • Dear one, you can contact for Nigeria homes.

  • I am pastor peter mwangi of Living water Church of God , assisting orphans ,widows and distressed ,i am seeking your assistance to partner with your ministry and work together for the Kingdom of God feeding His sheep Spiritually and Physically,assist us in evangelism ministry.
    we are asking for your help so that we can reach many lost souls,please open your heart and pray for us.put smile on there faces.
    I personally welcome you to our country Kenya,
    Thank you for your consideration regarding this request.

  • Dear Family.
    I am from Durban South Africa. I was so glad to see this e-mail in my inbox this morning. I did not know where to start clicking to help but I did click.

    I am a pastor From Durban South Africa, we do similar work, with Orphans and EEspecially Hiv/Aids work, we are in the process of train to raise much needed funds, I have nothing left to personally sell to keep up with the needs here in South Africa and Africa.

    By Faith I put an offer in to purchase a property as a base to work out of, as this is overdue.
    Please contact me, lets partner to make a difference.
    See our web site
    I also tried uploading a dvd to Myspace and youtube the other day but it kept stopping half wy through, I will try again soon and place a link on our site.


    In HIS Service
    Pastor Lloyd Peterson

  • am a food and beverage specialist in tourist hotels in kenya and i wish to donate myself to this work of ministry to cater for preparation and service of food to the organization.please assist me to assist the needy through the God-given strength i have.Am available at Ilariak Lodge-Masai mara or on my phone +254-723886312.Thanks.God bless you.

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  • Joyce & Joseph Wang’ombe

    Its good that the Molly&Bail are fulfiling their dream and vision that has been in their hearts all through. We saw this in their commitment and love to children when they first came to Kenya. They are humble and devoted christians.
    we are praying that this will be a great success to help the many fatherless children who need parential love and care.
    we believe that in God’s time we shall incorporate borehole drilling to help provide good cleaning water to the poor & needy.
    We wish you well as we wait for your arrival in Kenya. We open our hands wide to welcome you. Karibu Kenya. God bless you.

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  • The Word of the LORD says, God is LOVE. To visit the fatherless
    orphans and widows. Also the LORD loves a cheerful giver. To

    show God your love is to DO something for the Father: ” let
    your love be not in word, but deed” and also “when you do
    something for the least of My people, you have done it for ME”.

    The aids clickathon is the heartbeat of those whom care
    enough to do something, pray for them, even if you have not
    to give, (cash) Spread the Word, and tell others that they can
    help those children by letting others know that their CLICK
    will cause sponsors to DONATE money, for this noble and loving
    cause! Email your freinds, and have your freinds, email this
    news as well, for EVERY CLICK COUNTS, to the ones whom need it
    the most, those poor starving children! I urge each and every
    one of you to pray for the LORD to move others, to forward
    this message, as ALL whom shall do so, shall be blessed, for
    the “eyes of the LORD are upon each and every one of you”! How
    could someone who says “they love the LORD” not at least take
    the time to click, and let others know as well, that by so
    doing, they would make a difference in a childs life, by
    clicking, forwarding the message, and praying for others to do
    as well! May the LORD, of heaven greatly bless, each and every
    one of you! ManofGod Stephen Monday

  • Pingback: » Day 26 Update - AIDS Clickathon extended()

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  • The AIDS Clickathon seemed like a good concept, but with this being my first attempt at viral marketing I made a lot of mistakes along the way. While it’s raised $1,400 so far it hasn’t been as successful as I had hoped so far. (Too bad since it’s a great cause). So, I thought I’d share some things I learned along the way and have some fun doing it…

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  • Carla

    I started to click and will send to some friends to click tomorrow. Wished I saw the email earlier.

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