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Principles of Viral Marketing

Aug 27th 2012 at 1:15 AM

Viral marketing has definitely gained its popularity over the global network. More and more businesses are adopting this marketing strategy to gain their fair share in the market. The approach developed by Hotmail in increasing its number of subscribers is one classic example of viral marketing.

How Hotmail Did It

Hotmail is one of the first web-based email provider that gives away email addresses for free. Their marketing approach starts by giving free web-based email addresses and additional services. Each of the messages sent with a Hotmail address has an advertisement at the bottom that goes: “Get your private, free email at”

Then, of course, Hotmail subscribers will use the service to send messages to their friends and colleagues. These friends and colleagues will get the message and read it, and then clicks on the link at the bottom. They will also sign up and be a subscriber like what the sender did. Then these new subscribers will also email their own set of friends. The cycle goes on and on.

This is why viral marketing has the power of reaching thousands, even millions, of people in such a short time and with little effort from the one who initiates it.

Elements of Viral Marketing

Dr. Ralph Wilson, an e-commerce consultant, named six elements or basic principles of viral marketing. A viral marketing technique need not have all of these, but the more principles it follows, the more powerful the strategy will be.

1. Give away products or services.

This is the first and most basic principle of viral marketing. When a person hears the word “free,” it elicits the interest in him and will avail of that free product or service, for sure. Having cheap or inexpensive products may also do the trick, but “free” will give much faster results.

Patience is important in viral marketing. Giving away products for free may not earn profit today but if the business gets to develop customer base by giving something for free, it will soon generate income for them.

2. Easy transfer to others.

The medium used to carry the marketing message to other people should relatively be easy. Viral marketing has been powerful over the internet because of the ease of communication the technology offers. Email, web sites, software downloads are just some examples that can be used in viral marketing.

Also, it is better that the message be short for easy copying and transmission. Simple and short but straight to the point is best, just like Hotmail’s advertisement at the bottom of each email sent out.

3. Scalability from small to very large.

When viral marketing is used as a marketing style, it is best that the business is prepared for rapid growth. In cases of increasing web traffic thru viral advertising, the web owner should make sure that the host server is prepared enough to handle the expected increase in traffic within a short period of time.

This should not be taken for granted; else, it will defeat the purpose of doing viral marketing. Once people notice that the site takes a long time to load, they will just leave and forget about it. That means an automatic loss of potential customers.

4. Exploit motivation and behaviors.

A marketing strategy that builds on motivation and behaviors of people for its transmission is a definite plus. People love to be popular. This motivation will drive them to communicate to more and more people to be known.

5. Utilize existing networks.

According to social scientists, an average person has about 8 to 12 members in their close network of family, friends and colleagues. Moreover, internet gives way to creating a bigger network circle. Learning to use these existing networks in viral marketing will yield better results.

6. Take advantage of other’s resources.

Viral marketing need not consume all your resources away. Using other web sites in posting your articles, for example, will get them read by a large number of people without the need of creating your own web page.

It is best to learn these basic elements or principles of viral marketing first before actually doing it. Being to aggressive without doing your homework may just lead to damage instead of success. Try to adopt those that may be applicable to your product. Use all of the principles, if possible, for a more successful output.

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