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.
Two 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 campaignâ€™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. Wouldnâ€™t you click? And wouldnâ€™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.
- 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.
- 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. Itâ€™s integrated with an RSS feed, social bookmarking links, Technorati, and MyBlogLog.
- MySpace. MySpace is the largest social networking site in the world, so we created a MySpace profile for the campaign.
- 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.
- 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 â€œDigg Itâ€ from the drop down list. We also added a Digg and social bookmarking links to the Clickathon page.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 donâ€™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.