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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:

email signature

email signature

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

 send-to-a-freind.jpg

 Animated e-mail cartoon messages:  great job animated cartoon 

Method’s “Share your confessions and come clean…”: http://www.comeclean.com

 Clean Methods confess your sins viral marketing object

Nonprofit message “Operation Gratitude” video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02tcb7b34do

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGbP23uHYE8

To learn more about viral marketing, visit these resources: 

Web Marketing Today http://www.wilsonweb.com/wmt5/viral-principles-clean.htm      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     http://www.sethgodin.com/ideavirus/

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An E-Commerce Event Provides Useful Tools…

Recently, I represented eBizITPA at the E-Commerce Summit at the University of Pittsburgh in Bradford.  At the summit, there were case studies and tools provided that gave insight into how some small businesses are utilizing the Internet to grow their business.  As most of you know, case studies are a helpful way for businesses to learn from others what may or may not work.     

Darron Schott of Blair Corporation, explained the importance of shopping cart navigation, especially when 60% or more of a site’s top audience includes senior citizens.  Though more and more elderly are beginning to surf the Web, many have difficulty finding their way around.  Therefore, navigation has to be quick, simple and in no way confusing, or the company risks losing customers.  Darron explained the process they went through to test which features should be provided and in what way for their target audience.  They completed a workshop with several elderly women where they were able to purchase a product online and as they were going through the check out process, they were videotaped so Blair Corp. could see exactly what areas gave them difficulties.  They then could fix those problems in order to create a better shopping experience for their customers. 

Another speaker, Sarah Caniglia of LaserMonks.com, explained how one small Benedictine Abbey in rural Wisconsin had an idea that could help raise money for his monastery.  But as with many other monks, the Father leading this novel business idea, had little business practice.  They wanted to sell ink cartridges on the Internet.  Sarah and a colleague of hers volunteered to assist the abbey by creating a business plan utilizing Internet marketing.  The company, which focuses highly on supporting their communities by donating to charities are not only able to support their abbey, they are also able to donate any leftover profits to other good causes.    

In addition to case studies, a list of Internet tools was provided to help business owners with Web site analytics.  Carolyn Newhouse of SuperUser Technologies  introduced a tool to assist with researching good keywords.  As many of you know, the key words or phrases you choose to use in the content within your site can help your ranking in popular search engines such as Google or Yahoo!.   With this tool by SEO Company, you can type in keywords or phrases that you use, or are thinking of using, within the titles or pages of your site.  It will provide you with the number of search results that particular word or phrase will receive in Google or Yahoo!.  For instance, say I plan to have a Web site selling glass vases.  I would type in ‘glass vases’ and see how many results that exact phrase will conjure up in Google today.  If the results display 175,000, then there are 175,000 other sites that use that keyword within their site.   

This tool also allows you to not only see how much certain words or phrases are being used but also enables you to go directly to the results within Google or Yahoo!.  Doing that will allow you to research who you’re direct competitors may be. 

Do you want your site to get lost in a pool as large as 175,000?  Of course not!  If you have a niche product or service, you should consider using words or phrases that don’t have as many search results in order to allow users to hone in on your site, and of course your product or service.  This will ensure that you’re site isn’t getting lost in the search results among the other thousands of sites that happen to sell a product similar to yours.   

So, what’s different about your product or site and what are the best key words that describe it?  This tool is really helpful for those of us that can think of keywords but have no idea if they’re the best words to use in terms of search engine rankings.  Have you used this tool before?  Tell us what you think! If you haven’t used it yet, check it out at SEO Company and give us your thoughts! 

http://www.seocompany.ca/tool/keyword-search/

For other keyword tools, visit the following:

http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html 

http://www.freekeywords.wordtracker.com

http://www.keyworddensity.com/

Do You Know Your eMarketing Metrics?

Do you know how to measure the success of your online marketing activities?

Do you know how many unique visitors enter through your home page?

Do you know how many exit your site after entering the home page?

Do you know what the relative bounce rate benchmark is specific to your site?

You should.  Every site is different but the rule of thumb is it should be well under 50%.  Think about it…if 50% or more visitors are coming to your home page and then exiting you’ve got a problem…maybe a relevance problem?  Maybe the copy or look and feel does not speak to your target audience.  Perhaps visitors are confused about your offerings and how you can help them.  If you are using your site to generate leads and the bounce rate is high, then your homepage is performing very poorly.  You need to know your website metrics information and then optimize the page to perform more effectively. 

This is the kind of information AJ Miceli, VP of Marketing for FishUSA.com and Communications Professor at Gannon shares in his webinar:  eMarketing Metrics, Benchmarks & Tactics offered by eBizITPA.  It is packed with industry standard metrics for web, email, and search engine marketing that you absolutely need to know for optimizing online marketing value. 

AJ already conducted the research, pouring over hundreds of dollars of industry benchmark reports including: Email Marketing Benchmark Guide from MarketingSherpa and the Response Rate Study from The Direct Marketing Association.  He gives you all the metrics, analytics, definitions and he tells you how to get started measuring your own set of internal benchmarks. 

AJ is easy to get know and listen to.  I’ve know him for many years, going back before he was an online pioneer, starting an ISP back in the early 1990’s, his entrepreneurial activities have grown along with the growth of the internet. He knows how to leverage the internet as a marketing channel and help grow a successful pure play e-tail business like FishUSA.com. It means tracking and monitoring all your activities, online and offline.  And that is what is so great about online marketing – you can track and measure just about everything.   

Erie Ad Club

Getting involved with the Erie Ad Club was probably the most profound and most fun professional development experience ever. From committee, to board, to office, to President, you work side-by-side with the best talent in the region. I learned so much from working with industry leaders, media and agency professionals, and even competitors. Everyone worked together on programs and events. And where else could you execute such edgy and over the top creative strategies that a client normally wouldn’t risk? Early on as a member, I remember Bob Lowry (photographer & past president 1990) asking me to get involved with the Rooster Awards committee. In those days you worked your way up from committee to officer over five years, and everyone worked on the Roosters. Anyway, the next year Bob setup an application program using an early version of Filemaker so we could register the hundreds of Rooster entries on a MAC computer. I remember we were awed and amazed at how streamlined the whole process was. It was fantastic.

Making a serious commitment to help make the club a success was something I learned early on and I know how many other individuals and businesses commit their talent, resources and services to support the club so it can thrive.

Participate and celebrate the industry next week at:

Advertising Week Erie!
September 17-21, 2007

…I have no doubt at next years celebration one of the days events will focus on Online Advertising.

Search Engine Optimization and Web Presence

Search marketing consists of two different aspects: natural, or organic search, and paid-search. Through the proper utilization of these marketing initiatives, companies can enhance and increase their web presence relatively inexpensively, or even at no cost at all!

At the Center for eBizitPA‘s seminar, “Enhance Your Web Presence Through Search Marketing,” held yesterday, August 23rd, 2007 in Franklin, PA, three experts on the topic discussed both paid and natural search. The concluding presentation consisted of a critical analysis of six different attendees’ company websites.

PennTAP LogoPennTAP’s Donald LeGoullon kicked off the seminar with his presentation on natural, or organic search engine marketing and the search engine optimization (SEO), the improvement of the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines. LeGoullon efficiently covered a great deal of quality information regarding the state and usage of search engines today, and useful tips and tricks in order to raise companies’ websites upwards in the ranking of search engine results using SEO. Although only given an hour of time, LeGoullon did a tremendous job of efficiently creating a general understanding of what SEO is, as well as ways to use it to increase the visibility of a web site on the web.eDynaQuote logo

Doug Luthringer, Client Development Manager for eDynaQuote, and an avid ebay seller, was the second speaker of this half-day seminar, speaking about paid search using Google AdWords, which offers pay per click (PPC) advertising, and site targeted advertising for both text and banner ads. Google AdWords LogoThe ads placed on Google AdWords are included in the following locations on the Google Search engine, when the purchased key search terms are searched for.

Google AdWords Placement

Luthringer began his presentation by introducing the concept of paid search marketing with common terms and the different pricing models available. Some of these pricing models include pay per click, pay per lead, pay-per-sale, and performance pricing. The presentation continued with specifics about the Google AdWords service, as well as a step by step tutorial on how to set up an account, design ads, and purchase keywords for the ad. Tips and tactics for creating an effective ad to optimize results and ROI were also covered.

The final presentation of the seminar was presented by Cathy von Birgelen, of the eMarketing Learning Center at eBizitPA, and Don LeGoullon. Six individual company websites were constructively analyzed by these professionals from a marketing and SEO point of view. Many suggestions were made on how the sites could be improved. The positive and effective aspects of the website were also pointed out as a guide for what other companies should and should not be doing with regards to their web site creation. For more information on how to get a personalized analysis of your company’s website, contact Don LeGoullon at PennTAP via email, or telephone (814-677-3152).

If you missed this event, continue to visit eBizitPA’s website for other similar search or e-marketing courses! If you attended this seminar, we invite you to comment on the overall quality and value of the information presented throughout the morning and into the afternoon.

Note: This event was sponsored by:

eMarketing Skills and Training Survey

Technology Industry Partnership

On behalf of the Northwest Pennsylvania Technology Industry Partnership, the Center for eBusiness and Advanced IT (eBizITPA) and the Technology Council of Northwest Pennsylvania are conducting research to gain insights and understanding about the needs of employers and their employees in the areas of e-marketing.

If you are an employee or owner of a Pennsylvania-based business, we would like to invite you to participate in this survey. In exchange for volunteering ten minutes of your time to answer some questions, the first 50 survey respondents will each receive a $10 gift certificate good for the business of your choice to be redeemed at GiftCertificates.com.

Your participation in this survey will help us to understand what is important to employers and employees, as well as how you view the challenges and opportunities of e-marketing. With your feedback, we hope to achieve the following objectives:

  • Identify current levels of e-marketing awareness, attitudes and interest.
  • Identify skills and training most needed for successful integration of e-marketing strategies and techniques into your enterprise.
  • Develop effective training programs to provide the knowledge and skills identified.
  • Assist relevant professionals within Pennsylvania businesses in obtaining the required knowledge and skills to apply emerging marketing methods and technologies used in expanding business options and creating new and diverse marketplace opportunities.
  • Assist agencies, Web developers/designers and consultants to attain e-marketing expertise and to develop services and solutions offerings; which would include both software development and consulting services.

We understand that your time is valuable, and we have kept the survey as brief and concise as possible. We will thank all of our survey participants by sending them a copy of the aggregated survey data.

To participate in this survey and be eligible to receive $10 redeemable at GiftCertificates.com,

Click here.

 

Thank you for your participation!

AOL Advertising Sales Manager Gary Sherwood Addresses Local Erie Advertisers

Erie Ad Club LogoThe much anticipated Erie Ad Club new members’ luncheon took place today at the Erie Club, with a very large turnout. The 70 seats that had originally been reserved looked to have increased quite a bit, creating a buzz of anticipation and excitement in the meeting room. Soon after the attendees had helped themselves to a lunch spread of salad, sandwiches, soups, and cookies, Gary Sherwood, Advertising Sales Manager of AOL Media Services, was introduced and took the mic.AOL

His comprehensive presentation consisted of a broad overview of the current state of the online advertising market in comparison to past years and other advertising and marketing mediums that are being utilized by advertisers and marketers. Sherwood began with consumer behaviors and what they mean for companies. The first characteristic of internet users was identified as the idea of multi-tasking. The amount of available consumer media in our world has exploded in the past years with the growth of recent technologies. Despite this growth, there remains only 24 hours in a day to try to consume all of this information and entertainment. This has resulted in a general tendency to multi task, and the use of technology to compress content and time. Time, in the online space, is all relative.

TiVoAn example Sherwood cited was TiVo, “Who would have thought five years ago that one hour of television could be watched within 40 minutes, or a three hour football game could be watched within a half hour?”

Sherwood continued by outlining four factors that are driving this multi-tasking activity in users:

1. Broadband as mainstream

2. Searching

3. Limitless distribution channels and the vast amount of user generated content.

4. Online video streaming.

One hundred and seventy six million people are online in the US today, and more than 50% of them have access to broadband internet from their own homes. This broadband becoming a mainstream, and in some cases a necessity, has led to a change in users’ online habits, spending more time on the internet, and more likely to become creators and distributors of the content itself.Google

Users who go to the internet to look for a certain company, location, or information about a topic, stop first at a search engine. There are 6.4 billion monthly searches on the Google search engine alone. This search feature is a way of organizing online behavior, which can be greatly utilized by advertisers seeking prospects through search marketing. This solution is available to all levels of companies, even those who do not have a large marketing budget, because a max spending amount per month can be set, and companies only pay when their links are clicked.

YouTubeThe streaming of video streams in 1999 was about one billion. In contrast, the estimated amount of video streams in 2007 will be 35 billion. As you can see, the popularity of video streaming has exploded, and includes users viewing television shows, movies, selected clips, popular advertisements, or random videos on sites such as YouTube.

Online advertising facilitates a one to one, interactive relationship from the first step of awareness all the way through to the transaction. It allows companies and their customers to engage in a unique dialogue that other mediums can not compete with. It is also measurable in real time. Companies can track clicks, which pages of a web site the user clicked through to, how much time they spent on the page, and many other factors almost immediately.

Gary Sherwood concluded his presentation by summarizing his presentation with the comment that the online world is the ultimate on demand user format, where the consumers are in control of the content. When they log online, they are either looking for something that will make their life easier at that moment, or communication with the online community.

Facebook LogoAt this point in the luncheon, Sherwood opened it up for questions about online advertising in general. An extremely interesting question, in my opinion, was asked about the potential of social networking sites as marketing or advertising venues. Sherwood replied that he did not know the specifics of that medium and how it works, but he stated his personal opinion about what should be done, if in fact is not being carried out already. Users of these social networking sites, such as Facebook or MySpace, usually enter massive amounts of personal information about themselves, including particular interests, occupations, geographical location, etc. The social networking sites themselves could then used this self-proclaimedMySpace Logo information to segment these individuals into different “buckets.” This way, those who are interested in sports would see narrowly segmented sports advertisements when logged into the site.

I, personally, know that Facebook does something similar to this. Advertisers can choose to reach only those individuals that are in certain “networks,” or geographical areas. To some extent, Sherwood’s opinion on the ideal way to advertise on social networking sites is already being implemented. However, it seems that advertisers should be able to segment even more, leading to more of that interactive one to one relationship we discussed before.Amazon Logo

Another interesting topic brought up in the Q&A was the idea of websites “remembering” your information to make it easier for users to fill out forms, initiate transactions, etc, as well as to help the website’s company to appeal to you. For example, Amazon’s website recommends different products that you may be interested in based on the selections it “remembered” you either looked at or purchased. Sherwood explained that these websites work by tracking the IP addresses, which are unique for every computer. The site “cookies” the user every time he or she browses the website or clicks a link. The site will “remember” the actions taken by that computer in order to appeal more to the users.

This presentation was an extremely good overview of e-marketing. However, there are numerous aspects that weren’t touched on, simply because of the short nature of the luncheon. However, we would like for you to continue the dialogue about these different types of media being used for marketing. What do you think about the potential of social networking sites as a marketing medium? Does “cookie-ing” an individual invade their privacy? What about blogging or podcasting? Are these media appropriate for marketing?


eMarketing Special Interest Group

August 2019
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