We’ve all heard of a video, picture, email or other item that’s “gone viral”, and immediately, we know that this means the item was “a hit”, as this data quickly spread from one person to another, until it reaches epic proportions. This basically means that the item’s been viewed by millions across the world, or they are aware of the product/service, in a relatively short span of time. How do things “go viral”?
Some things naturally have the characteristics to go viral, and something is not likely to “go viral” unless others find worth in it, whether this worth is based on the entertainment factor of the item, its use, the information it contains, or whatnot.
For example, John finds an article highly entertaining, so she decides to share this article in his Facebook page. On the internet, sharing is lightning fast, because of the convenience offered by different social networks as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and communication mediums like online messengers.
Strength in Numbers
The integrity of a product or service goes up as more patrons acknowledge its value, and in the process “promote” it. You might’ve fallen victim to this. For example: you might’ve gone with your choice of eating at Restaurant B instead of Restaurant A, based on 150 good reviews for Restaurant B, whereas Restaurant A might’ve only had 20 good reviews, even though both were rated 4.5 stars.
Subtle Advertising: the Medium as the Product
The data channel itself can use viral schemes. You might’ve noticed that your own Apple device includes some of its own “advertising”, attached to each email you send via Mail, as a signature. The “Sent from My iPad” (or iPhone) signature might be short and sweet, but these 4 words “spread the word” and remind receivers of the Apple product you use every time you send an email using your Mail app. You might also have noticed product/service logos with the words “powered by“ in them. This is another form of subtle viral marketing.
A Reward in Exchange
A type of viral marketing offers a “reward” in exchange, otherwise known as a “referral” program. This is used as a tactic to get more people to sign up for a service, or buy a product. For example, Dropbox gives you additional storage each time you get a friend to sign up for an account, and Groupon uses the same tactics, offering cash compensation that’s sometimes referred to as “credits”.
Online, shareable information can go viral really fast, via social networks or websites that have a “Share” feature, with the featured content linking back to the original website where it’s from.
Through Social Networks
Social networks are a convenient venue for marketing products and services. Online, there are paid items (like fonts) that can be downloaded for free – but you first need to spread word about the product to your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or other. According to Washington Post Technology contributor Hayley Tsukayama, the average Facebook user has 245 friends. If this is true, then a single “share” immediately exposes the product/service to this many people, provided that none of them have you “hidden”.
The Power of Word-of-Mouth
Information can travel through word-of-mouth, too. When a piece of information is transferred via word-of-mouth, this is usually very powerful, because many don’t recommend products/services unless they find them valuable. The incentives could differ, but in the marketing world, word-of-mouth has a high level of integrity because it’s a ‘warm’ form of advertising, especially when the product advertiser/”recommender” is someone the person might know very well.