Everyday virality: Five ways to make your marketing more sharable

What once was a fun and hip way to promote your product or service has now become a common rationalization for the next magical project pitched by your favorite agency.  Just take a minute and Google “viral marketing”.  You’ll find an endless stream of creative types touting some viral video, screensaver or other form of microdrivel.  If you dig a little deeper, however, you discover some pretty interesting content about what it takes to make something “viral”.

I started this post with the goal of creating another one of those “<insert prime number here> ways to make your marketing more viral” rants.  I’ll get to that in a minute but before I do let’s demystify all that is viral.

  • Viral spread is more challenging if your offering isn’t inherently sharable.
  • Virality isn’t a silver bullet if your other marketing programs aren’t working.
  • Some pretty smart people have recently challenged the view that all it takes is a couple of “big sneezers” to to create an online “epidemic”.
  • Viral is not a business model (apologies to the 50+ social bookmarking sites who will soon be sucking on fumes).
  • BurgerKing’s subservient chicken really isn’t a chicken.

So what is viral?  Well, in many ways it is very similar to some old school things like customer referral and customer advocacy programs. You know, give your best and/or most vocal customers easy ways to “tell a friend” and maybe they get a little something back for their troubles.  Like many web 2.0 ideas, you just take an tried and true concept like customer referrals and soak it in a sharable application-based infusion to get $25M+ of VC pixie dust (See Widgetbox).

Unfortunately, many of us live in World 1.0 and have CEOs and boards that measure performance based archaic things like revenue and profits.  So for the rest of us, here are some simple ways you can make your online marketing more sharable (you can still use the word viral if you want to impress your boss or poker buddies).  In the long run it can be cheaper to get your happy customers to do your marketing for you.  This doesn’t mean you can cut all your old school “push” marketing programs, but viral programs can make a big difference.

So here is my list of five things you can do to make your marketing more viral:

1. Get your users to consciously share your brand – This means adding “email a friend” and other sharable links on every page.

2. Get your users to unconsciously share your brand – Think Hotmail.  They built a huge business by adding a simple footer to every email sent through their site.

3. Give your users widgets or sharable applications – I know I made fun of Widgetbox earlier but they do provide users with an easy way to share your content through a range of channels.

4. Give your users an incentive to share – Even my auto repair shop has a customer referral program.  I can get a $40 Dunkin Donuts gift card if I send a friend to them.  Chances are your customers will respond to the proper incentives too.

5. Entertaining videos/games/quizzes/screensavers – This is what most people think of when they hear the words “viral marketing”.  The best ones don’t always have the highest production values.  It just has to resonate with your audience enough to get them to pass it on.

There are other more subtle approaches one could employ to leverage network effects to enhance adoption but that is for another day.

Author: Frank Days

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