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Viral Marketing – Why is it so Powerful?

Aug 29th 2012 at 4:18 AM

Viral marketing is the new marketing and advertising trend right now, especially in the online scene. It takes advantage of the internet’s network effect to be able to reach a great number of people in such a short time.

Benefits of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing strategies offer several advantages to businesses.

- Easy to execute. There are several methods of sending viral contents or messages and all of them are easy to do. Among those methods are sending email, instant messaging, and using web sites. Sending viral messages through these media will not take much effort and time.

- Low-cost. As compared to sending direct mails, viral marketing proves to be cheaper and a more cost-effective method. With just a little investment on viral advertising, its power can reach even hundreds of thousands of people as compared to spending the same amount of money to traditional advertising methods. That is because the only money to spend is for sending the initial set of viral contents, then forwarding or replicating the message will not require additional costs anymore.

- Good targeting. With viral marketing, there is a huge probability that the message will reach people that are interested in it. Since the concept of viral marketing is essentially passing on a message from a user to another person, most likely, the user will pass it to a person whom he knows will be interested in it. Thus, the percentage of wasted advertising, which is sending the message to the wrong market, will be reduced.

- High and rapid response rate. Since viral marketing reaches a good number of the business’ target market, there is also a big possibility to have a high turnover ratio. Even if the responses will not immediately convert into profits, there will still be huge traffic that the business will receive which is what most web owners want.

These are indeed great benefits a business can get by adopting this marketing technique. But what really makes it more powerful than other marketing or advertising strategies?

Let us take the example of Hotmail, where this viral marketing term really started. Hotmail was able to spread over the internet at an amazing rate. It is like an epidemic that quickly spreads out to others once there is a single person infected by the virus. That is why this technique was named as such.

According to Hotmail’s statistics, its number of subscribers grew from zero to twelve million users in just 18 months. Imagine that! What’s more amazing is that the company spent just $50,000 on advertising to achieve that number of subscribers. Compare that to Juno which spent $20 million on traditional advertising during the same time period as Hotmail but got much less output.

With those facts about Hotmail, viral marketing’s main strength is indeed reaching a huge number of the target market at a considerably low cost. Hotmail did not even have marketing or advertising presence in most countries outside the United States but it got to be the major email service provider in these places like India and Sweden.

What adds more power to viral marketing is the fact that the viral message passed on is like an endorsement from a friend or somebody who can be trusted. People have this way of thinking that “if my friend uses this product and is happy about it, what stops me from using it as well?”

In Hotmail’s case, when those people who received an email from their friends, relatives, or colleagues using Hotmail learned that it works and their friend is a user, they quickly signed up and became members as well. These people wanted to belong in this group where their friends are also in. This technique is also a matter of association or affiliation.

Hotmail’s case is not an isolated one, though. During the same time that Hotmail is gaining its popularity, so does ICQ. ICQ is like a buddy list and instant messenger, much like MSN and Yahoo Messenger now. ICQ also used the same technique and marketing campaign and it gained almost the same number of subscribers as Hotmail within the same time frame.

Viral marketing is indeed one powerful tool to increase popularity of a product or service. However, just like any other things, proper use of the technique is necessary. A single mistake of misuse of it may mean permanent damage to the product or service being promoted.

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