The practice of viral marketing is in use since the ancient times and finds mention in the records of the historical Greek civilization, although it wasn't referred by the same term back then. The aim of a viral marketer is to spread or rapidly multiply the message or information that needs to be conveyed. The most effective way to do this is through word-of-mouth publicity or a fast medium like the Internet.
The main advantage of using this technique is that it requires less effort, as the medium of communication itself acts as the primary source of information and publicity. For example in the above mentioned case, the people themselves become the primary source and ensure rapid spread of the information. Thus, it is seen that viral marketing can be a very effective way of selling or presenting your product or service to a target clientele.
Another important aspect is to understand the factors that can effectively assist you in promoting your product. The best way to market an entity is through a network of closely-related people since they trust the word of a friend or an acquaintance more than any advertising campaign. Hotmail is a classic example of the successful use of these tools. It made use of the Internet to advertise its services. It had tags attached to every email account.
The tags were simple sign up forms meant for adding new users. When these customers would send an email, the recipient would receive it along with the tag promoting Hotmail, and he or she could sign up by clicking on it. The chain result was an exponential increase in the subscribers for the Hotmail service. Now, let's look at some of the tools of this popular medium:
- Understanding the market psychology: A 'free' service is an instant attention grabber. Nothing sells a product better than giving it free of cost initially. It may sound ironic but the strategy is very effective, especially in the case of web services. Promoting a product by offering trials directly or through the existing customer base lures a client to at least try it or recommend a trial to their near and dear ones.
- Being a receptive domain: Willingness to accept a remark whether good or critical, is the hallmark of a responsible campaigner. People trust a service better if it is open to criticism and suggestions. If a person feels more involved in the process, there is a high probability of that person using the product or service. People who use the Internet regularly are especially prompt in commenting on a service.
- Scrutiny and resolving: Once a detailed analysis of product sales and its feedback is done, acting on the results is crucial. This is a very sensitive medium, therefore, the information passed on at such speed also involves a lot of risk, as it cannot be controlled once the process begins. Therefore, it is extremely important to project the desired and carefully studied image of the product. It involves rectifying the glitches or any shortcomings promptly and ensuring a constant watch on the market happenings.
- Promotion and development: The recent Hollywood flick 'The Dark Knight' is a genuine example of viral marketing at its best. First, the huge number of Batman fans across the world served as the biggest promoters of the movie. Besides, the promoters ensured maximum reach of the movie through interactive games, contests, and virtual participation in movie scenes like voting for the 'Gotham city' (the city in the movie) mayor and similar reel life experiences. Once the people could associated with the story and characters, they became an 'unpaid' set of marketers for the movie.
These tools are like double-edged swords; if handled with caution they work really well, if not, they can cause severe damage. Hence, a careful and studied approach is highly recommended while framing your strategy.