December 8, 2008
It’s hard to beat the marketing power of thousands or even millions of people doing your marketing for you, but getting a campaign to go viral can be a tough challenge.
In order to go viral, something has to have mass appeal. This is why it can be very difficult to launch viral campaigns for niche subjects. When a niche is particularly small, there may not be enough volume to generate sufficient interest to spread far and wide.
Viral marketing is definitely better suited to larger niches, although it can be done in smaller niches with a little thought and creativity.
At this moment in time the primary means of getting something to go viral is video, but it certainly isn’t the only means. Other possibilities include photos, eBooks, special reports, and software.
Whatever vehicle you choose you need to find people who will be willing to spread the word for you. These people love to tell other people about things. They love being the first person to spread something new, whether it’s a funny video, a great new piece of technology or some insightful information.
Seth Godin, a keen advocate of viral marketing, released a free ebook on the topic called “Unleashing the Idea Virus.” He called these people “sneezers.” Sneezers not only love to spread news, they have enough charisma to make people listen to them!
Finding these people can be tricky, but all it takes is a few, and word can spread like a wild fire in a forest of tinder-dry wood.
For example, if you’re selling an Internet marketing product, you’ll want to get your viral marketing piece into the hands of some of the top Internet marketing gurus. If necessary you can offer them monetary compensation to help you spread the word, but ideally you want them spreading the word because it’s something worth spreading the word about.
If you have an affiliate program, you can offer potential ‘sneezers’ their own copy of your viral media with their affiliate link embedded. If you already have a large list of your own, you could use that as leverage to get them to JV with you. If a few big names decide to do a join venture with you, your campaign has a much greater chance of going viral.
Once a few of the bigger names start talking about your campaign, it will trickle down. The mid-level people will start talking about it, and their followers will start talking about it. Pretty soon you have lots of people talking about it, and it’s everywhere. The virus has been unleashed, and it’s spreading like wildfire!
But remember, this viral marketing piece has to have mass appeal. People aren’t going to spread the virus if it isn’t contagious. You need to make your viral marketing campaign very appealing. The best way to do this is by offering massive value for free. This is a technique that has been used very effectively by many leading Internet marketing experts over the last few years.
Of course, you can achieve viral marketing success and the fame that goes with it by performing some crazy stunt. In the early 1990s a UK band called KLF managed to make headline news throughout the world by burning a million pounds. Unless you have a spare million that you don’t mind setting fire to, this can be a very expensive route, but with some serious creative thinking you might be able to come up with something seriously newsworthy that will spread virally to your target market in record time without breaking the bank.
Paul Smithson is the founder of Intellimon and the driving force behind the best-selling XSitePro web site development tool (http://www.xsitepro.com). Paul has set up five multi-million dollar companies, one of which is now owned by the BBC. His areas of expertise include business strategy, e-commerce, on-line and off-line marketing, software development, and maximizing the potential of on-line businesses.