Archive for November, 2007

Viral Marketing Strategies Not so Easy to Spread

email signatureWeb 2.0 Tools I recently presented at the Nonprofit Partnership’s Conference on Interactive Web Strategies That Build Your Nonprofit. The presentation provided an overview of online giving and why it’s on the rise. I covered many of the most popular interactive strategies, including interactive Web sites and e-mail marketing, and then focused on Web 2.0 activities; technologies that include group fundraising platforms and social networks to support fundraising and influence donors’ action.

After the event, I received an e-mail from one of the participants in my session asking for clarification on a few things. This person specifically wanted me to provide more detail about one of the topics I briefly discussed called viral marketing. I deliberately decided not to get into much detail on viral marketing because it is one of the most difficult strategies to successfully implement. However, I thought I would try and provide more detail on this topic since someone asked.

The terms “viral marketing” and “viral advertising” refer to marketing techniques that use social networks to increase brand awareness through self-replicating viral processes. Viral marketing is enabled by the Internet, and more specifically e-mail, by encouraging people to pass along a marketing or fundraising message to friends who view the message and then pass it on to their friends.Sometimes it is as simple as putting information in your e-mail signature or asking the e-mail recipient to forward an e-mail to anyone they feel would be interested in the information.

However, developing a successful viral marketing campaign that will get serious traction and reach is not that simple. If you work with an agency or marketing firm you definitely will want to get them engaged. You need to be very creative; just because you have a message you want to share does not guarantee others will find it interesting. It must appeal uniquely to the target group so that the users will generate the velocity of interest for pass-along, as well as uploading to their social network pages.

If you think you’ve got the bug and want to spread it around, here is some advice on how to get started. Keep us in the loop if you have success!  

Four step approach for developing a viral marketing strategy:

1. Understand the behavior of who you want to reach.  Relatively older (30+) online users are more likely to forward commercial or fundraising messages to friends or tell friends about a video, picture, game or an ad. Younger (25 and under) online users are more apt to use social networking sites to upload and share videos, photos, fundraising widgets and more. 

2. Create a viral message and/or object that appeals to the segment you want to reach.  What is the goal of your message? Here is where creative thinking really counts because you need to determine what form your viral marketing strategy will take. Is the message a promotion, a call to action, humorous content, jokes and cartoons. a video, a game, picture(s), a song, a contest? Whatever you decide, it must be self contained so it can be moved, passed along, or uploaded.  3. Put together a distribution and publicity plan.  Start with the obvious publicity channels like publications and ezines, news media and newswire. Identify the environments where your target group goes for interacting and where idea sharing spreads at super sonic speed. These could be online communities, affinity sites, forums, listservs, blogs, social networks, etc. Wherever your target group congregates is where you want to be.  

4. Develop a Search Engine Marketing plan.  Optimize the message or surrounding Web site with relevant keywords and phrases. This will extend your reach and capture those who hear the buzz but have not been exposed to the message or object. 

Examples: Very basic viral e-mail marketing in signature:

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Automated marketing e-mail campaign management tool with “send to friend” option:


 Animated e-mail cartoon messages:  great job animated cartoon 

Method’s “Share your confessions and come clean…”:

 Clean Methods confess your sins viral marketing object

Nonprofit message “Operation Gratitude” video:

Nonprofit promotional message “Instant Karma: The Campaign To Save Darfur”:

To learn more about viral marketing, visit these resources: 

Web Marketing Today      Dr. Wilson is a sage when it comes to Internet marketing.  He also presented at eBizITPA’s Internet Sales and Marketing Conference in 2005

Read Seth Godin’s book “Unleashing the Ideavirus”.  I have it on CD and it explains the viral marketing phenomena and includes word of mouth and permission marketing.

seth godin viral marketing idea virus


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