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Can Your Business Go Viral?

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In these days of online ubiquity, traditional media and advertising mediums are finding it harder and harder to keep up with the millions of minions on social networking and micro blogging sites such as YouTube and Twitter. In the past, a slick, well planned and expensive promotional campaign was a sure fire way of boosting your product’s image. These can now be eclipsed in a matter of hours with a smart, memorable and brief video or 140 character micro blog post that spreads like wildfire across the Internet. Known as ‘going viral’, this phenomena has seen previously mundane brand images revitalized, giving them a new lease of life among younger, tech-savvy generations. If you are looking for ways to help your company go viral, there are a couple of things to consider.

Resist the Urge to Sell

The one thing that is most likely to get in the way of a successful attempt at viral marketing is an overt hard sell approach. With kids, teenagers and adults these days having been weaned online, they have in essence been programmed to avoid blatant online advertising like the plague. Give up the thought of selling a specific product and instead focus solely on getting your brand known and recognized. Many of the best viral ads keep you guessing until the very end what the promo is for, indeed many are even totally unrecognizable as adverts. Getting people to view your advert online to the end is key so aim for a memorable mini movie rather than a brand saturated spot. Tom Dickson, CEO of Blendtec is someone who understands the power of viral marketing and demonstrates it with his brand’s series of YouTube videos which challenges its products to blend everything from frozen fruit to cellphones. Racking up over 34 million views, Blendtec’s stripped down campaign was easily 100 times cheaper than the $50,000 cost of a single full page advert in a newspaper such as the New York Times and was arguably far more successful.

Tap in to Pop Culture

Nothing boosts your ad’s chances of going viral more than a nod to pop culture or topical news stories. By incorporating characters, story lines and locales already familiar to consumers while adding your own twist, you are guaranteed to generate a buzz. Obviously you need to be wary of copyright infringement issues, and just as importantly, be sensitive to fans of the original material. Recently, the Volkswagen series of Star Wars themed spots have proved extremely successful in bringing their brand to the forefront of a key online demographic.

Make the Entire Process Effortless

The final most important component to a successful viral marketing strategy is enabling the transmission of the virus as simple and easy as possible. In terms of online material, an absolute must is a share option via the major social networks. By allowing sharing, tagging and comments, you propel the material infinitely further to friends of friends and also engage people who prefer to actively discuss rather than solely consume. Avoid lengthy form filling and personal data collection as this more often than not simply puts people off from getting involved. Instead of looking at a lack of consumer data as a loss of potential leads, you should instead view the enhanced spread of the campaign as a widening of your marketing demographic.
If you aim to have a successful viral campaign, it is essential that you understand the non traditional nature of this phenomenon: its consumption, transmission and ultimate effects are not as linear as past methods. Once appreciated, a viral marketing campaign can completely redefine your brand in the minds of the online population.
Lois Green writes for educational blogs nationwide. Find out more about earning an MPA at onlinempa.usfca.edu.

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