Capitalizing on Viral Marketing Opportunities

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Viral marketing can be one of your most powerful online marketing techniques, using the power of associations to spread the word. Today we see several common forms being used:

  1. Word of mouth—such as “Tell a friend,” “Send this coupon to a friend,” or “Recommend this service package to a friend”
  2. Pass it on—when we receive an e-zine, a newsletter, e-specials, or a funny or branded video and then forward it to friends
  3. Product or service based—when a free tool or application is used online and that tool includes an embedded marketing message
  4. “ShareThis” button (Figure 5.1) on your site.

Word of Mouth

You can use viral marketing techniques in a number of different ways throughout your Web site. By placing a “Tell a friend about this lawn care service” or “Share this product information with a friend” button on your site, you enable
users to quickly and easily spread the word about your site and your products and services.

Visitors can click on the button, provide appropriate information in the “To” and “From” fields (including name and email address of both the recipient and the sender), and include a brief message. Although the message is personalized,
you can include additional information, including details about the service, your product, the price, and a link directly to the page where the recipient can make a purchase. Because the message is personalized from a friend, the recipient will see the friend’s name in the “From” field. Because it comes from

ShareThis widget enables

someone they know and trust, they are more apt to open the email and visit the site to find out more about the product than they would be if the email came from a traditional corporate email campaign.

In addition to the aforementioned techniques, there are many different ways you can implement viral marketing techniques on your Web site. If you have a newsletter on your site, you can add a “Tell a friend about this newsletter” button.

You can also incorporate a message in the body of your email newsletter encouraging readers to forward a copy to friends they think would benefit from the information included in the newsletter. You should also include information
in the message on how to subscribe to the newsletter for those recipients who receive the newsletter from a friend. The recipients will then be able to send a copy of the newsletter to their friends, who will in turn be presented with the opportunity to subscribe and regularly receive the newsletter. The opportunities for viral marketing are endless.

A good word-of-mouth viral marketing strategy enables a visitor to your site or a recipient of your email to share your site or email content with others with just one click of a button or link. The design and placement of that link or button is critical to the success of the campaign. Most people don’t scroll below the fold.

Below the fold

Content of a Web page that is not seen by the visitor unless he or she scrolls down the page.

You should look to every repeat-traffic generator you have on your site for viral marketing opportunities. Repeat-traffic generators like coupons, newsletters, e-specials, and contests all provide ideal opportunities for “Tell a friend” or “Send a copy to a friend” links and buttons. Once you have determined the viral marketing techniques you are going to use, you want to make it easy for the site visitor or email recipient to spread the word.

To be effective, you have to make it obvious what you want your visitors to do. Use a call to action to get them to do it. A button with “Send this coupon to a friend” or “Tell a friend about this e-special” works well. Don’t assume that people will take the time to open their email program and send an email to a friend about your e-special or coupon or will include the URL to the page on your Web site just because you have a great offer—it doesn’t happen! You have to make it easy.

Here are some tips to make your viral campaign effective:

  • Have a fantastic button or graphic that grabs visitors’ attention.
  • Provide a call to action telling the visitors what you want them to do.
  • Place the button in an appropriate place away from clutter.
  • Have the button link to an easy-to-use “Tell a friend” script. The “Tell a friend” script accepts the name and email address(es) of the friend(s) and the name and email address of your site visitor who is sending the message to a friend. You need to provide a section for a message (Figure 5.2). You might provide clickable options for this, such as “Thought this might be of interest” or “Knew you’d be interested in this.”
  • Give clear instructions on how to participate; make it simple, intuitive, and easy
  • Offer an incentive to encourage visitors to do what you want them to do: “Tell a friend and be included in a drawing for (something of interest to the target market).”
  • Leverage, leverage, leverage: “Tell five friends and be included in a drawing for (something of interest to the target market).”
  • Avoid using attachments in the message you want spread. This will avoid any potential technical problems with opening the attachments as well as allay any fears related to viruses.

Email to a Friend

  • Have your privacy policy posted. If the user is going to pass along a friend’s email address, he or she wants to be assured that you will not abuse the contact information.

Viral marketing will only be successful if the content is good enough or valuable enough to be passed along.