John Murch

5 Crash Course Tips in Viral Marketing

19 Nov 2007
5 Crash Course Tips in Viral Marketing

What is viral marketing you ask?

Wikipedia defines viral marketing or “refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness, through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet.”

Viral marketing leverages peoples act of discussing or talking about various brands. Some of this marketing can be just telling a friend who tells all of his friends (its pretty simple.). Basically any way of encouraging people to “pass it on” or “pay it forward”.

1 ) Offer a FREE service or product

One great way to do this online is via an ebook. One of the biggest viral marketers I know (not personally, yet) is Seth Godin. Seth has written a number of great books from The Dip to Purple Cow. Seth understands people want something of value for FREE to let them know how good it is. Most people then will buy the next book due to seeing value in the previous book. I had never heard of Seth Godin until someone sent me the idea virus. Its a FREE eBook from Seth Godin. So go download the idea virus and learn about viral marketing from the genius Seth Godin

2 ) Scalability and How-to Spread the Word

Getting people to do something is like pulling teeth, but with the internet only a click away and you need to leverage it. The internet connects millions (billions?) of people with just the click of a mouse. You need to leverage this by building a website or blog and posting up your content and offering a simple scalable solution to spread the word. Putting a simple signature to a free ebook can impact your target market because every time you send or reply to an email, that signature goes with it. This can become HUGE if you start (I know I hate chain letter) a chain letter and give out a FREE ebook on a topic you know lots about and to tell people who download it to “pass it on” or even add their own signature in all their emails. By putting an ebook or offering a free service you need to make sure you can scale from 1 to 20 download to 2 million downloads in a day. When I think of scalability I always think of digg and how getting your link on to the front page can bring in hundred of thousand of page views. This is great, but only if your server scales and can handle the load of all those request. Most people solve this by using various caching methods, but you need to be able to scale if you want utilize viral marketing to its fullest.

3 ) Exploit the “coolness” factor

If everyone is wearing a pink shirt, you want to “fit in” and wear a pink shirt. Exploit the “in” factor by jumping on the band wagon and promoting your product or service. Making it to the front page of digg is something to blab about, why because everyone and their mother wants traffic and getting on the front page of digg results in this. Other “coolness” factors include making it on sites like slashdot and even techcrunch for any and every startup.

How can you get on to these major news and network aggregators by leveraging the web 2.0 community. Using and posting technorati tags on your website to promote your product or service. Getting the blogging community to write about you in exchange for a free swag or a blog exchange. Bloggers like John Chow make a LOT of money by blogging everyday and posting how much money he makes. People are fascinated at how spending little time a day can make a LOT of money. Money is the drive for most product and services, but you need the “coolness” factor, such as a (web 2.0 buzzword) idea to get it rolling.

Now understand most people are NOT an over night success, but over the course of a couple of months, you too can bring in large amounts of traffic. I brought in over 2,000 page views in 1 day just by posting a blog entry to ajaxian on running javascript benchmarks on my iPhone and my Macbook Pro and comparing them. Since this post I also average another 500+ page views a month due to high google page rank and the “coolness” factor of the iPhone. Look at my basic video blog review of the iphone. I posted 3 videos on youtube and have over 30,000 views! Viral marketing is not only putting yourself out there with some free information, but its utilizing the “coolness” factor by getting people to write about you and spread the word, in this case the iPhone.

4 ) Leverage Current Web 2.0 or (Buzzword) Technology

I previously posted about technorati, digg, and techcrunch. These are web aggregators that bring in lots of people and redirect them to other pages via their story or link. For vial marketing you need to leverage these current technologies to use or buy your product or service. Think about something simple as twitter where your goal is to post WHAT YOUR DOING! The “coolness” factor of twitter as a FREE service gets people to use it and for this and most services, its only fun when you have all your friends on it, so you sign them up (Viral marketing at its simplest). Now you and all your friends are on twitter but you want to exchange files between each other at work, well from most of the same people at digg, they created pownce where you can exchange files as well as post your status. Okay so you are understanding all these new websites about updating your status and need to think of a way to leverage this concept and create a viral marketing campaign. Well, The Brian Shaler built a simple fun game that leverages twitter called twitlibs. Twitlibs is not even a product, but a simple service of posting up various fun and entertaining mad libs that is running on wordpress. There is not expensive coding or marketing campaign, just a fun little game that is using viral marketing by leveraging twitter and all your friends on twitter by sending out a mad lib and having everyone participate. So basically you need to look at the new technologies or websites that everyone is flocking to and find a way to leverage this new technology.

5 ) Take advantage of other peoples resources

One way I help get my blog out their to the massive blogging community is by writing a blog review for a well known blogger. I started by writing a review for John Chow in exchange for a link back to my blog. This improved my Google Ranking as well as promoted my site to John Chow’s readers. This is a simple viral marketing trick because you are leveraging someone else’s resource, in this case John Chow. Viral marketing is all about leveraging various services or products to promote your product in a fast way. The internet can drive traffic to any website, but it’s finding the sites that have a LOT of traffic that you need to leverage. Another great service is, a social bookmarking website. You can save bookmarks to your website or blog using keywords which help with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and driving traffic to your site. also uses a network of “friends” (much like twitter) where you subscribe or feed other people’s bookmarks and share. This means if you bookmark a cool site, your friends will be notified about it. You can also drive your friends by using a for:username tag to send specific links to your friends or members. I have over 20 “follower” who subscribe to my bookmarks, so I can use viral marketing by posting up, this is a amazing site you need to checkout and get my “follower” to view them and pass it to all their friends.

Using common keywords or typos can also drive traffic. How many sites have you been to where you spell a word wrong and visited someone else’s website. It happens everyday, but if you know this you can leverage this. You can also use common keywords to leverage your views and/or options about a topic. For example, I had a very bad experience with Dominos Pizza back in May 2007. I was pissed and took action, in the form of SEO. So I though about the thing that PISSED ME OFF and utilized the common keywords, such as 555 deal and dominos 555 deal. Everyone is interested in peoples experiences with a product and what they think before they buy. I used Google Analytics to help see what search keywords are bring users to various parts of my blog. By leveraging SEO I was able to average about 400+ page views a month from people who are looking for deals on dominos. I have also used this technique to get a high page rank for keywords such like Free Solar Power. I know there is an ethical approach to SEO, but I do not think that I have stepped on anyone’s toes when blogging. Let’s create a buzz and stir up the crowd and get others to talk about it, leveraging other peoples resources. Utilizing other peoples resources can help drive traffic, even something as simple as posting a comment on a blog puts a link back to your blog or website.

So while writing up this (dare I say, Amazing) 5 Crash Course Tips in Viral Marketing I decided to enter it in the [Lists Groups Writing Project][31] for a chance to win $100 USD. I was reading Luciano Passuello blog [litemind][32] and saw a contest that I might enjoy entering. I was almost done writing this post, so why not compete and see if people like it. I also posted a simple and sweet post of [10 ways to Eco-Pimp Your Home Green][33], but think this viral marketing post is more appealing. Since this contest you can only have 1 post, I decided to use this one. Feel free to jump on this content and enter for a chance to win $100 USD!

Please let me know if you have any feedback because I will be using this as the base for an eBook.

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