Viral marketing is a form of word of mouth marketing where it uses the online means to promote a product. In other words, viral marketing uses internet to spread the message of product like how a virus is spread among computers which are networked. As an example, if an email message is sent passed to few audience from the target market they may forward it to others who have similar interest and the forward chain will keep on expanding the spreading the message. The basic idea of viral marketing can be visually represented as follows:
Source: (Bruce on Game, 2010)
Viral marketing uses different means on internet for its functioning. Means of viral marketing are:
- Emails- The message of a product can be passed on to potential customers using dedicated emails or small tagline at the bottom of regular emails. This is the most common viral marketing mean that is used throughout the world but nowadays email campaigns are less productive as people are moving away from email forwarding. Additionally SPAM filters enable filtering of emails sent by advertisers.
- Blogs- Blogs are journals, diaries and newsletter which are written in a casual tone of writing and they cover any kind of content. Blogs shows the latest updated post first enabling latest trends to be spread fast and the ability to comment on post enable the users to submit their ideas about the post. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) allows users to receive regular updates based on subscription which makes users continuously visit the website and spread messages. Most of the blogs are personal in nature which allow users t share content of their interest. Business blogs are used to publish informal information related to business. Blogger, TypePad and Blogster are some of the free blogging services.
- Micro Blogging- Micro blogging service is a form of blog but kept in brief. One of most popular micro blogging website is Twitter which allows the user to share the content in 140 characters. In the case of twitter it allows the user to update followers/friends with latest happenings and followers can retweet it to their followers and spread the news.
- Podcasts- Podcasts are audio or video files available on internet to download or streaming. Uploaded audio and video can be subscribed by users using Podcasts. Podcasts can be used to spread files which contain marketing message and product information. Apple’s iTune is a popular Podcast service provider who receive files from individuals and compaines and distribute them among wide rage of audience.
- Community sharing sites- These are websites which shares particular type of contents among users. Users have to get registered and create their profile and contents can be shared among their friends and all users as publicly. This create a network among users who are interested in particular type of content making it easy for marketers to target their potential customers using a viral message. Youtube is a popular content sharing website which allows the user to share videos to spread messages across the globe. As a trend, businesses release their material on Youtube for it to get shared among target audience. Flickr is a community sharing website which allow the users to share photos among other users.
- Forums- These are online discussion held which lies in between blogging and content sharing. Forums are discussions held by members which are monitored by administrators of the forum. The topic has to be initiated and the discussion continues on that topic. This is used to spread a viral message where the message has to be set as the topic. Yahoo Answers and DigitalPoint are popular forums used.
- Social Networking- Social networks are websites which allows people to connect with other online users/friends through communication and interaction. Social networks provide sense of belongingness where the users share their thoughts and recent happening with their friends. Facebook and MySpace are the most popular social networks and Facebook has created a new era in marketing by developing Facebook advertisements using Fan pages. These advertisements let the business to spread their message to the target market after filtering using their basic information and users are allowed to “like” the advertisement which appears in the hope page of their friends which motivate friends to have a look at that content. Apart from advertising, viral messages are spread through link sharing where links from blogs and content sharing websites are posted to individual profiles, status updates, notes, photos and videos. Online chat provides the opportunity to spread the message faster than other means of social networking.
- Niche Social Networking- These are social networking sites which provides social networking focusing on a specific area. These websites offer same functionalities as other social networks but difference lies within its community. Reason for success in niche social networks is that it target a community seeking a specific value. LinkedIn is a popular niche social network which focus on career development and exploring job opportunities by building professional contacts.
- Tags- These are key words applied in organizing and searching for contents in search engines.
- Instant messaging- Instant messaging allows real time communication between single or group of individual which can be used as a mean of spreading a viral message which will be passed on to other users.
Even though viral marketing is widely used it has its own pros and cons which will be discussed in the next post. (Click here for Advantages and Disadvantages of Viral Marketing)