Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, to millions.
The Classic Hotmail Example
The classic example of viral marketing is Hotmail.com, one of the first free web-based email services. The strategy is simple:
Give away free email addresses and services;
Attach a simple tag at the bottom of every free message sent out: “Get your private, free email at http://www.hotmail.com”;
Then stand back while people email to their own network of friends and associates;
Who see the message;
Sign up for their own free email service; and then
Propel the message still wider to their own ever-increasing circles of friends and associates.
Like tiny waves spreading ever farther from a single pebble dropped into a pond, a carefully designed viral marketing strategy ripples outward extremely rapidly.
Viral marketing is a method of creating buzzwords or marketing pieces that are memorable and attention-grabbing in our modern, always-connected world. It utilizes social media, videos, text messaging, and other person-to-person methods to spread information about a product or service instead of just creating a commercial and putting on TV or radio. As they say, ‘that’s so 20th century. Today in the 2010s, viral marketing is using the power of individuals sharing content to get messages out to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
With tools like YouTube and Facebook, sharing videos, stories, and images to thousands, even millions of people, can happen in minutes. This offers a powerful way to share information in a very short amount of time. Creating a message that is engaging and worthy of being shared is the challenge companies face when they want their marketing piece to go viral.