Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is a marketing technique that is used by businesses to build brand awareness through a process of spreading a message voluntarily through a network of people. This can be accomplished either through word-of-mouth where people will pass along information they like about a product or service and is based on natural human behavior. It is claimed that when you have a satisfied customer, they will pass along information about it to an average of three people.

Viral marketing is also used effectively on the Internet where marketing messages are embedded in brandable software, images and even text messages. While the basic word-of-mouth form of viral marketing isn't sustainable indefinitely; web marketing can be viral for a long time if not forever.

The Social Networking Potential.

The goal of Internet marketers is to create successful viral marketing campaigns by identifying web surfers with high Social Networking Potential (SNP) who will take a message and pass it along their personal, social network like Facebook or MySpace and get "buzz" going about a product or service.

With offline viral marketing products are presented and promoted to create an impression of spontaneous word of mouth enthusiasm and brand identity. Commercial jingles and funny commercials are an example of offline viral advertising. With jingles, advertisers want you to immediately identify products by the song, leading to purchasing the product when the time is right. Word-of-mouth comes in when you tell friends about a product and sing the jingle, bringing it to mind in another's mind that same benefit driven commercial.

The Next Level

With the introduction of Web 2.0, viral marketing has moved to the next level. Design, usability and benefits have allowed viral marketing to become more powerful. With the utilization of blogs, RSS feeds and Web 2.0 social inter linking, viral marketing creates a level of curiosity and desire based on the amount of buzz generated across a social network. If the viral marketing is successful, it will create buzz in social niche media that is both contagious and curiosity driven.

Spread Brand Awareness.

Social networks spread brand awareness, and just like computer viruses, the brand messages can spread like wildfire if the hearts and minds of the consumer are touched. As a result, if the message is compelling enough, it has the potential for creating exponential growth and spread and grows in both influence and exposure for the product or service.

Viral marketing is most powerful when it can tap into the friends of friends, like being able to send a message to the address book of the initial contact. Facebook apps are an excellent example of spreading a message exponentially. When an app is installed, it automatically asks if you want to tell your entire address book of friends and associates about the app.

Another example would be the electronic postcard where phone companies and email services offer free services which are spread word-of-mouth as well as via email message (every Hotmail message you send has a silent advertisement for the Hotmail service). The consumer benefits from the free service; Hotmail spreads its brand identity and message on every outgoing email.

Google has mastered the viral approach adding to its services and allowing its email customers and users to spread the word virally about all of the products and services it offers. As a result, it now has one of the largest and most powerful networks of advertisers on the planet, and it was a natural outgrowth of one person telling another person who told another person.

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