Viral marketing is any marketing technique that induces websites or users to pass on a marketing message to other sites or users, creating a potentially exponential growth in the message's visibility and effect. A popular example of successful viral marketing is Hotmail, a company now owned by Microsoft, that promoted its services and its own advertisers' messages in every user's email notes.
Types of viral marketing techniques
There are three criteria for basic viral marketing; the messenger, the message and the environment. All three must be effectively executed in order for a viral message to be successful.
Some techniques for effective marketing include targeting the appropriate audience and channels, creating videos, offering a valuable service or product for free, creating an emotional appeal, social outreach and enabling easy sharing and downloading.
Who uses it
Viral marketing can be effective as a stand-alone tool or as part of a larger marketing campaign. It can be used by both large and small companies, but can be especially attractive to smaller business, as it can be more cost-effective than traditional marketing efforts.
Viral marketing has been used by energy drink companies, movies and even political campaigns to generate marketing buzz.
Role of social media
The expansion of various social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, has contributed to the effectiveness of viral marketing. As users grow, and as the time they spend on social media sites exceeds their time spent emailing, more users are viewing news and forwarding it through their preferred social networks. This requires marketing campaigns to shift focus from more traditional email campaigns to more creative social campaigns.
Advantages and disadvantages
There are various advantages and disadvantages for viral marketing. The advantages include lower advertising costs, fast growth, mainstream media exposure and rapid lead generation.
The disadvantages to consider with viral marketing include the nuisance factor. Due to the large amount of email people receive daily, viral marketing messages may be viewed as spam. Another consideration is negative marketing buzz. A message may not be construed as intended, and could be discussed in a negative manner. Viral marketing can also be hard to measure.