One of the fastest growth areas in new media has been viral advertising. Professionally, this means creating concepts and viral marketing campaigns that provide the target audience with a link between brand and message; while socially it means sending the latest photo and caption doing the rounds to everyone in your email address book!
This effectively means that the message’s audience grows exponentially by encouraging the recipient to pass the viral advertisement on to others in their social and professional circles. It’s a lot like a cold, but with less sneezing. Viral marketing campaigns can take many forms: HTML emails, humorous images, games, web banners, desktop characters and even your email signature can act as a viral resource attracting people to your site.
HTML emails make use of the wow-factor by allowing you to populate the inboxes of those you wish to attract with image-intensive, bright, cheerful email messages that effectively become an extension of your website. That communication can then be propagated by the recipients sending it to their email contacts, who then forward the message on to their contacts, who then forward the message on to their contacts, and so on. Suddenly a viral marketing campaign is born.
Think about giving people an incentive to pass your message on. Can you offer something for free on your website if they do? Perhaps a voucher to shop in an online store or a free download from your site. For a non-business website, a simple competition often works wonders. Some people need to be motivated to perform an action such as clicking your banner or passing on your email, so provide them with the necessary encouragement and make sure it’s clear what they need to do. Provide them with clear instructions in the email and you could soon have an army of unpaid affiliates spreading your viral advertisement far and wide.
Once you have a number of contacts who have read your viral email, they then become your marketers, sending it on to everyone they know. And people are far more likely to take notice of a communication if it has come from someone in their personal or professional network.
The problem is, HTML emails are no longer enough for internet-savvy users, whose fingers hover perilously close to the delete key when reading their emails. Other forms of viral marketing thus come into play. Message boards hold a great deal of viral power. Once a forum’s primary audience is built, it begins to grow organically when forum members encourage others to join. A major advantage for forum owners is that once a person posts a message, if replies are made the message starter is automatically emailed inviting them to view responses, which keeps repeat traffic high.
So what makes a good viral marketing campaign? Michael Bell One have created many HTML emails for dozens of businesses across a wide range of industry sectors, and from experience we have found that if you can mirror the style and “attitude” of the client’s website, encapsulating everything that makes the website popular with repeat visitors, then your marketing campaign has every chance of turning viral. As an example, if we were given the task of creating an email marketing campaign for a celebrity PR agency, we would most likely create an HTML email in the style of a newspaper gossip column with instantly recognisable hush-hush features. As people instantly recognise this type of format from the tabloid press, and because it’s light-hearted and fun, it would have a good chance of being passed on. Viral marketing success!
Having an HTML5 game that is personalised to the topic of your website can also be extremely effective – especially if it includes a high-score board. Humans are a naturally competitive species, and by having a scoreboard you can create competition, which equals traffic. More viral marketing success!
What should you avoid in a viral marketing campaign? Well, if you’re sending an email out that you want people to pass on, think about spam filters. Your message shouldn’t include words that most email spam filters would block. That means no Viagra! Also, make sure that the file size isn’t huge, otherwise you risk losing your audience before you even start. Finally, always ensure that your viral marketing message is clear. An ambiguous message is a wasted message in today’s fast moving digital landscape.
Creating a talking point from which a viral marketing campaign stems is usually the greatest hurdle to overcome. If what you’re going to do will be memorable and worthy of forwarding on or discussing at the office coffee machine, then distribution channels and email lists are the easy bit!
Whatever you do, remember that once it’s out there it will grow. Make sure you get the message right and your viral marketing campaign could be the next global pandemic.
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