The great thing about viral marketing is that you keep your distribution costs to a minimum! You get your customers, colleagues, contacts etc to recommend your products or services to their own networks, meaning that an effective viral marketing campaign can get your message in front of thousands of potential customers extremely quickly.
Viral marketing has its origins in the offline world (word of mouth marketing) but it is most powerful when used online. It can expose you to huge audiences at a minimum cost and still lots of companies don’t have a dedicated viral marketing strategy in place.
Microsoft coined the “viral marketing” phrase in 1997 when it was promoting its free Hotmail account by adding a “Get your free Hotmail account” link to all existing users email messages sent from their own Hotmail accounts. They used their customers as a low-cost distribution channel and of course new customers saw the service in action as they had received an email from their own friends that were already using Hotmail. In just over 18 months, Hotmail grew its customer base to more than 12 million users.
They discovered that a personal recommendation was more powerful than advertising and new users trusted the endorsement of a friend and became interested in the product for themselves.
I’ll be writing more this week about this topic but for help pulling together your own viral marketing campaigns, please contact me.