VIRAL MARKETING: THE HOLY GRAIL TO BECOMING A SUCCESS – There are established and start-up businesses out there that attract vast amounts of traffic due to a singular piece of content produced that managed to go viral; it is every webmaster’s wet dream to produce something that millions, if not hundreds of millions of people will share.
Viral marketing is not something that is restricted to online businesses, in fact viral marketing applies to the both the online and offline commercial world; get it right and the skies the limits, get it wrong and it could sink your business.
There’s not a company out there who isn’t asking their marketing partners to come up with something that will get people sharing and more importantly talking about in the real world.
Sharing online is one thing but what you want to achieve is a conversational buzz in the offline world as this enforces your brand and naturally more people will purchase your product, service or use information you have produced.
If you want to know what a piece of viral marketing looks like then take a look at the video above.
When I came across the video yesterday, some 13 hours ago, the number of people who had viewed the video stood at just over 27.5 million; in just 13 hours that video has accumulated even more interest and now stands at a staggering 28,569,758 views.
Yes, WestJet hit upon an idea that would help boost sales of its airline tickets and with the vast numbers of viewers being hit in the heart it’s almost certain that WestJet has experienced an increase in customers.
So what’s the trick behind a viral piece of marketing? The truth is it is extremely difficult to predict if people will share online and if they will talk about it offline.
What you are looking for is something that will create a buzz and get people talking. Viral marketing is often seen as a way to drastically reduce marketing costs due to a single piece of viral marketing being worth millions of times more than just a simple advertising message.
The issue with advertising today is that consumers have learned to switch off. The web is packed with advertising and it’s all the usual mundane ‘buy now’ or ‘sale’ messaging, however, what the consumer craves for is inspiration, entertainment and above all something they can talk about.
As any company will tell you, especially the very small ones and start-ups, marketing is massively expensive. There are literally hundreds of thousands of web start-ups each and every day and less than 1% of them have any type of marketing budget.
Most are hoping to create an article or maybe a YouTube video that will capture the imagination of their intended audience and then get them sharing and talking.
Unfortunately in the real world very few articles or videos every reach the lofty heights of being referred to as viral.
Many companies, large and small, appear to lose focus in that their primary goal is to get people to buy their products, service or visit their websites.
If you are looking to create a marketing message that will go viral then you really need to remove yourself from the ‘marketing’ aspect; that is paying far too much attention on selling rather than entertaining.
The primary reason people talk about certain items of content is the fact that they have been entertained or indeed inspired.
Go back to the top of this page and look again at the WestJet video and watch through it carefully and note how many times WestJet attempts to sell their airline services.
There are in fact a couple of very subtle instances, such as the routes they are servicing, but they are so subtle the average viewer will miss it entirely. You should therefore conclude that the video is not about trying to sell you an airline ticket directly but to entertain you; which it does in abundance.
After viewing the video, it’s likely most of the near 29 million viewers would be more than happy to book a flight with WestJet ,for the video depicts the company as a caring and sharing organisation in which it wants to make their customers Christmas wishes come true.
Before you start to make plans for your viral marketing, stop and consider that nobody wants to share or talk about another product plug; they simply want to be entertained and this is your opportunity to simply ‘brand’ your business – the sales will come naturally if you have managed to entertain your audience sufficiently.
Many small businesses, especially those whose activities are strictly online, often fail to see the bigger picture when it comes to viral marketing; that is they simply attempt to create something, generally a video, that gets shared around the social networks.
That in itself is a healthy pursuit, but if you want the Holy Grail then you need to get people on the street talking, for this is truly what viral marketing is all about.
How important is ‘word of mouth’? According to a recent study, only 7 per cent of viral marketing happens online. Yes you might be a little surprised but it’s perfectly true. What really drives viral marketing is when people talk about it in conversation offline with their co-workers, friends and family.
This interactivity then promotes them to go online, view and share, which in turn gets more people engaged in talking about the content and so forth.
Before you get all excited there is a downside to viral marketing; yes that might be hard to conceive when you look at how many people have interacted with videos and content that the likes of WestJet have produced.
It is a known fact that viral marketing can have the ’15 Minutes of Fame’ effect; that is you’ll get millions of viewers through online and offline interaction within a very short time frame but after the hype wears off people will quickly forget about you and your business and move on to the next big thing.
Within your viral marketing plan you must consider how you can convert those who view your content; that is make them life-long customers or regular visitors to your website.
There have been many small companies who have initially hit it big with viral marketing and then failed miserably to follow up; it is these that are now relegated to deep cyber-space, never to be heard from again.
Another fallacy to viral marketing is the overall number of people who viewed the content. Sure it’s a wonderful thing to be able to say that the content you produced managed 50 million views; but just because someone viewed a piece of content doesn’t necessarily mean they took action.
When I first started out on the web I didn’t have a clue about site visitors or their browsing habits. I decided to write because I find it enjoyable and if a few people came along and liked or disliked what I wrote that was fine.
However for my business to stay online, it takes money and so I quickly realised I needed to start paying attention to what content my visitors were reading, how they were interacting and whether they bothered to come back on a regular basis.
I have never produced an item of content that has managed to go viral but in all honesty I’m not that concerned about trying to force the issue; my first and foremost goal is to entertain and inform and if that results in people sharing and talking about what I write then I have succeeded.
If you run an online business then pay close attention to your Google Analytics, or other webstats analytical information you have access to for this will quickly tell you if you have something that people like and indeed the longevity of your business.
What you are looking for is whether people hang around on your website and for how long. The amount of time spent on your website and the number of pages people view will depend largely on what type of business you have.
You need to measure this carefully when creating any type of marketing so that you can determine what works for your visitors and importantly what doesn’t so these can be avoided.
Your primary goals to viral marketing should be:
Create something that is entertaining without the notion of either the hard or soft sell.
Produce something that people will share throughout their social networks.
Come up with content that will get people chatting about what you’ve produced at work, at home and in their offline social circles.
Carefully consider how you will convert all those people into loyal customers or regular visitors to your website.
Finally be careful on what you produce; both humour and the shock tactic have been known to work extremely well but you must at all costs avoid alienating or making your audience angry; both of which, can be achieved through humour and non-humourous content.
Just be pragmatic in your approach and test out your ideas on as many friends and family as possible before unleashing your creation to the world.