This tutorial explores briefly some of the types of viral marketing:

  • tell a friend
  • send an ePostcard
  • send a screen saver
  • send a game
  • send a newsletter
  • pyramid offer
  • viral communities.

Viral marketing accelerates word of mouth online by harnessing the network effect of the Internet. Viral marketing generates traffic via word-of-mouth i.e. encouraging visitors to tell a friend. Email can also be used – inviting recipients to pass on the message (whether text, animation or video) to a friend or colleague. Hotmail put a message at the bottom of each email: GET YOUR FREE E-MAIL AT HOTMAIL.COM. It spread to 11 million users in 18 months without any advertising.

Email a friend is great for its simplicity and effectiveness. It involves a prompt next to a small box to enter the email address of a friend or a colleague who might like to receive the same message, article, web page or offer. It works well for both parties. ‘email a friend’ is perhaps the safest and most effective example of viral marketing.

Although similar to email a friend, this requires a site visit to pick up the postcard. See how this technique is used by Freeserve to build traffic. Through a similar technique, BlueMountain arts was so successful in building traffic it was acquired by Excite for in excess of $1 billion.

Games or software that can be used on site, or need to be downloaded as for the screensaver, can generate word-of-mouth and if the experience is good enough, can create massive traffic. The inventors of the ICQ chat software achieved over 32 million downloads in the first few years.

A stalwart of viral marketing of which the Guinness ‘Dancing Man’ is the best known example, now followed by ‘Dancing Hamsters’ and ‘Dancing Babies’. An interesting screensaver will be emailed to others and seen by many. Not only the preserve of B2C. Screensavers are also used in B2B, for example, screensavers of construction sites and setting concrete have been known to titillate engineers.

Newsletters are powerful viral marketing tools. One of the easiest in the book. Many newsletters ask readers if they want a friend or colleague to receive the newsletter by either forwarding it themselves or, better still requesting an email address for a friend or colleague.

Another approach to viral marketing is the email pyramid offer. This is frowned upon by some who see it as a nuisance chain letter or even a pyramid selling technique. A typical example is an offer of a free mobile phone if you email the message promoting the phone to ten friends or colleagues.

Affiliate campaigns, such as that used by Amazon, are considered by some to be viral in that they use other sites to generate traffic which is referred back to Amazon.

Viral Marketing Techniques:

  • Tell A Friend
  • Send an ePostcard
  • Send a Screensaver
  • Send a Game
  • Send a Newsletter
  • Pyramid Offer
  • Viral Communities

To summarise, the online techniques include:

  • Tell A Friend
  • Send an ePostcard
  • Send a Screensaver
  • Send a Game
  • Send a Newsletter
  • Pyramid Offer
  • Viral Communities

Viral marketing generates traffic by persuading customers and visitors to help with the marketing. Interesting and relevant messages and/or, relevant incentives, combined with a solid privacy policy is a winning combination.