Viral Marketing refers to a phenomenon where a product/idea quickly spreads in the market, primarily through the word of mouth from the existing users. Viral marketing can substantially cut the advertising costs and also can put down the competition by quickly cornering the market. Some of the products that mainly relied on viral marketing include Hotmail, Google search, Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest. While nobody can ensure virality or control the propagation, there are a few things that could act as a catalyst for the viral reaction.
There are 3 components of viral marketing:
- Messenger – There are three types of messengers in viral marketing. They include the marketing mavens who like to try out new stuff and are typically experts in what they do, the salespeople – who amplify the message and social hubs – who then take it to their friends. The social tend to be extremely connected and can bring a wide number of their connections adopt a product. The salespeople help define the message, and make it compelling and persuasive.
- Message – This is the very critical part of the marketing. You must have a great product and a great story around it. The product should be of high quality enough to excite the mavens, have a story strong enough to convince the salespeople and a market large enough to get the social hubs working. Strong landing pages are very critical, in case of web apps.
- Environment – This is the context, market condition and industry situation at the time of launch. If the environment is conducive (such as a free web based email when hotmail came) and there is a big pain point, then things can go viral quite easily. It also depend on the technology factors in complementary industries. Google, for instance, was able to quickly leverage the broadband infrastructure built by the failed dotcom-era companies.
The following can be done to make a product go viral:
- Seed the market with high quality initial messagers that will make the market crave. Facebook, for instance, was open only to Harvard & ivy league, while LinkedIn seeded with highly connected individuals such as VCs.
- Make the product free of cost initially. Charging money can reduce virality. Hotmail that disrupted the email market was made free, in contrast to paid services from AOL and others.
- Make it very easy to share the product. Embed social media buttons and provide quick links that could be shared with friends.
- Keep your servers ready for viral overload. Many products that could have gone viral were threatened with failures due to small servers.
- Keep your PR ready for a barrage of questions.