How to Ignite Viral Marketing Campaigns For Your Site

December 8, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park  

I’m helping to promote the search marketing company I work for at SES Chicago this week and today I had the chance to attend a session called “Igniting Viral Campaigns”. The topic is especially interesting to me because I frequently brainstorm new creative projects that I can promote using social media. Not only is viral marketing usually more cost-efficient (compared to throwing money at advertising), but it has the potential to bring in a huge influx of links and exposure that does wonders if you’re building a brand.

I’ve had a few successes with viral marketing campaigns, namely my crazy contest promotion and my IM Top Blogs list. Both have been extremely effective in building my readership here at Winning the Web.

Chris Winfield of 10e20, Jennifer Laylock of Search Engine Guide, and Fionn Downhill of Elixir Interactive led the conference session and shared some great tips on how to launch viral campaigns. Here are some of the main takeaways.

Why viral marketing?

78% of people trust recommendations from other consumers – which is no surprise. Word-of-mouth marketing works extremely well and viral campaigns are key. The social web is very powerful because your target audience can easily be reached online. 7 out of 10 Americans use the Internet for news and everything is shifting to the Internet. TV news loses 1 million viewers per year and newspaper circulation is down 10% since 2001. Not only that but the majority of journalists are online as well. 97% of them find news sources online, 79% find story ideas on news wires, and 72% read blogs.

Clearly there is a huge opportunity to market your business online and you can tap into the power of word-of-mouth by launching a successful viral campaign. But how?

The basic elements of a viral campaign

  • Free products and services
  • Effortless transfer to others
  • Scales easily from small to very large
  • Exploits common motivations, behaviors, and emotions
  • Utilizes existing communication networks
  • Takes advantage of others’ resources

Examples of good viral content

  • Lists, example: The ten commandments have worked for ages
  • How-to content and guides
  • Surveys, example: 25 best colleges for nerds
  • Best-of resources, grab other content and compile like the IM Top Blogs list
  • Tools, example: calculator for specific niches
  • Videos, example: Will It Blend video series
  • Widgets
  • Quizzes and badges

Viral content promotion tips

  • Use forums and groups to seed the content. Use the Big Boards forum rankings to look for the biggest and most active forums.
  • Use social media and news sites like Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and for their ability to influence and attain links and eyeballs.
  • Some additional strategies for promotion: blogs, forums, RSS feeds, social bookmarking and tagging, press releases, photo directories and images, social media sites, videos, podcasts, article marketing, ezines and newsletters, white papers, Wikipedia.

Viral marketing guidelines

  • Always have clear goals and objectives. Some of the metrics you might use to determine the success of a campaign are subscribers, social bookmarks, comments, links, conversions, etc.
  • Promote great content only. If you push sub-par work, it could affect your efforts later on.
  • Contribute to the communities. Don’t just intrude on social media sites expecting to reap the benefits. Participate in the conversation and you will be rewarded. Give a little and get some back.
  • Have good hosting and be ready. A successful viral marketing campaign is sure to drive a ton of traffic – enough to take down your servers if you’re not prepared.
  • You can’t control viral marketing but you can enable it. Keep trying again and again. Most viral efforts don’t take off but every try improves your marketing. The majority of companies will fail 8 to 12 times before finding success with viral campaigns.

Have you launched any successful viral campaigns on your website? What was the key ingredient in making it work? How many tries did it take to get there? Share your stories in the comments below.

I’ll be attending a few more sessions at SES Chicago and blogging about it here. They should be pretty good so stay tuned.

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Posted in Articles, Internet Marketing, Social Media
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41 Responses to “How to Ignite Viral Marketing Campaigns For Your Site”

Steven-Sanders on December 8th, 2008

I just create a dont be a magpie website as a quick spoof of the magpie craze going on at Twitter. It took me all of 5 minutes to buy the domain, and create the static one page site.

Here in the last hour, it has started to go viral on twitter.

Problogger thought it was funny, he retweeted it, then others started retweeting it. I saw a huge spike in traffic and a massive increase in the number of Twitter followers I have.

It’s crazy how things you aren’t even prepared for can create a viral buzz for your blog.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

That’s awesome, thanks for sharing Steve! The cool thing about viral campaigns is that there are so many outlets for your pieces to spread. Twitter exposure might lead to views on Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc – kind of leading to a whole domino effect of burning pieces.

Yung Drew on December 22nd, 2008

Indeed awesome.

Jacques @ SEO Tools South Africa on December 9th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

The viral aspect of internet marketing campaigns is something which really interests me, the challenge seems to be able to consistently get it right! Adhering to the basic principles still doesn’t seem to necessarily guarantee success.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

There are no basic principles when it comes to viral marketing. Basically, you have to try new things again and again and hope they stick. Of course, look at some of the past successes might help you get a better understanding of what your audience likes, but it doesn’t mean they want to see the same thing again.

Jacques @ SEO Tools South Africa on December 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Point well taken! Forgive my naive comment, I’m in SEO headspace. Viral stuff can take the craziest routes, here in South Africa we had a photo of a bit of a weirdo taken at a rave party end up as a fictitional character by the name of Vernon Koekemoer. Everybody started photoshopping him and it was quite incredible. Fads come and go though, and tomorrows no-no was yesterdays greatest success.

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Make Money Blogging on December 9th, 2008

Wow thats a very detailed for viral marketing. But it seems like there are lotsa discussion saying that viral marketing doesn’t work anymore?

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

Viral marketing works and always will. It’s just a matter of finding something new and adapting to the times. It’s a lot like strands of a cold virus – they constantly change and adapt so that they always end up getting you sick!

ZK@Internet Maketing Blog on December 9th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

This is a good post on the imapct and importance of viral marketing.

Syte Black on December 9th, 2008

Really useful post Thanks

Make Money Online on December 9th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Thank you – great post. The examples of good content is helpful. Normally I only think about the free how-tos, but some of the others might be just as good if not a better offer.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

Yeah, how-to guides are effective but unless you’re in a relatively new market or spin it in a way that hasn’t been done before, it’s difficult to make it go truly viral. Think outside the box and try new things. That’ll definitely help you to see more success.

Frostfire Gifts on December 10th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

The most success i have had is when i include a viral refer a friend function to a viral campaign.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

That’s a good tool to have on your content, but won’t make a piece go viral on it’s own.

Nicole Price on December 10th, 2008

Going viral is easier said than done. Even following all the advise given by every expert in the field, there is one element – serendipity that seems to matter more than anything else. We hear only about the success stories. That is why they are heard about. We never hear about those that failed despite following every tip in the book.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

Hey Nicole,
I agree with you here. No one wants to hear about failures in marketing but they’re a lot more common that you think – even for the “gurus”. For every success, there’s 100 failures. It’s just a matter of trying again and again and being determined to make something work.

Cheap Mobile Calls on December 10th, 2008

The main thing to take away is good unique content, and Facebook. Viral marketing is hard to implement, but pays off very well at the end.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

You got it right. Viral marketing comes down to extraordinary content and effective marketing/tools. Success won’t happen without both of those components in place.

SEO Stuart on December 10th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

“78% of people trust recommendations from other consumers” – where was this sourced from Gyutae? Is an interesting statistic and shows that word of mouth really does work the best.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

Hey Stuart,
Thanks for asking. That statistic was from the Nielsen Global Survey 2007.

Erwin Tan on December 10th, 2008

Viral marketing is really very powerful..

I can still remember the days when Hotmail just started out.. Their free email accounts were spreading like wildfire through word-of-mouth and viral marketing.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

Great example, Erwin. Looking back, that seems kind of funny, no? Web-based email was such a novelty then. I even remember Gmail accounts selling on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Now people don’t think twice about their email options.

Going viral means re-creating that novelty effect and making people excited about what you have to offer.

SEO test on December 10th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

top sites helps get traffic and boost me on google
I am building several topsite list for my niche’s to get strong related links for my site they are easy to set up and once they get listed other sites join boosting your ranks and bringing you more traffic some others are building niche dig clones link a green dig take any of the social sites and build a niche version for your niche that is a good way to go viral if you work at it

Cheap Mobile Calls on December 11th, 2008

That’s another great idea actually. Thanks for sharing this!

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

I do agree with this and it’s why I created my IM Top Blogs list. Everyone loves to see their site included on a top list so they’re blog about it and tell all their friends. The Digg clone idea could work as well, but it’s a lot harder to pull off because you need to build a solid community and initial user base.

Ann Arbor Web Design on December 10th, 2008

You are spot on; the main reason for viral marketing being so effective is because people trust word or mouth more than traditional advertising. But to make a successful viral campaign; Ah that is another matter entirely.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

In theory, word of mouth is optimal and it’s something that you should strive for. However, you still need to create something remarkable that people will naturally want to share and tell others about. That’s definitely the hard part.

Watch on December 11th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Nice post, thanks for sharing. Sounds like a great session at SES.

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

It was a good session. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend a couple – but I’m glad I was able to get a lot out of this one.

Dollar Dude on December 14th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I really like this post and bookmarked the same for the future use. Thanks for the post!!!

Matt Helphrey on December 17th, 2008

Great information about how to gain from viral marketing. We all can and should use it to our advantage. The internet makes it all possible.

ZK@Internet Marketing Blog on December 17th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

thinking of a viral concept for my blog

Biztone on December 18th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Great post! I don’t usually go around looking for tips. But this is a stand alone, stand out post. Viral marketing in my opinion is very best way to achieve success. Once you start hitting those exponential tiers of reach, whatever your goals are, things literally explode. Great post. I’ll be checking back. (I may even borrow some of your tips in an upcoming post.)

Gyutae Park on December 18th, 2008

Great, thanks for stopping by! Viral marketing is definitely a great way to achieve success. Like you mentioned, once people start doing the marketing for you, you’ll see your exposure spread like wildfire. It’s definitely a great feeling that I need to experience more. 😛

MLDina on December 20th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Viral marketing is a great way to generate buzz for your site. We’re huge fans at MarketLeverage, and have plans to use some unique promotions more in the near future. Contests and educational content are my personal favorites, but of course, it depends on what your goal is.

Yung Drew on December 22nd, 2008

I gotta figure out some way to utilize some viral marketing for my site… Seems like here at WTW, you have that all locked down big G. Keep up the solid advice my man.

Brandon on December 27th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Great idea on the TOP Lists! I am looking for ways to implement now

Towlie on January 6th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Great list bookmarked for further reference!
Will also be coming back to the site so keep up the good work.

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