Viral marketing gets a lot of hype. Maybe that’s because that’s precisely what it is, hype. And who can blame the hypists for hyping up the hype?
But it really is more than hype. It’s a valid marketing strategy. But what is it and who does it benefit?
In a word, viral marketing is the use of certain online tools to drive a buzz about your business and drive massive targeted traffic to your website. Viral marketing uses tools beyond the traditional press release and publicity-driving measures of old media. It utilizes things such as blogs, social media, videos, and other “viral” tools to create a buzz and drive traffic right where you want it.
Keep in mind that the most effective viral marketing is targeted. But the broader your audience then the most effective it can be because your message will appeal to a larger pool of people. If you are a local business within a specific niche and you are in a small community then viral marketing may not be a viable marketing tactic for you. Let’s do the numbers:
In a town of 100,000 people with 50,000 households, 80% of which are Internet connected, you’ll have a potential target market of 40,000 households. But what if you sell women’s clothes? Well, that effectively knocks off a large part of that market, doesn’t it? If each household has an average of 4 persons (2 adults and 2 children) and only one of those is a woman then your potential target market is a pool of 40,000 women. That’s not bad, right?
But that isn’t your real targeting pool. What if you sell plus-size women’s clothing? Again, you’re cutting out a large part of your market. If half the women population in your town is plug size then your market is now down to 20,000 potential buyers. That’s a considerably smaller pool.
OK, it gets worse. Those 20,000 women may all be online, but how often do they use the Internet and how often do they shop for plus-size women’s clothing online? That can vary, of course, but realistically a very small part of your market is going to avid Internet shoppers. It is likely that most will be occasional online shoppers. Will a video posted to YouTube penetrate your geographically-targeted 20,000 potential buyers of plus-sized women’s clothing? Possibly. If done right. But to do it correctly you really have to know that market and get them to YouTube to see that video. How do you do that?
On the local level, viral marketing is best done as a combination off line and online marketing tactics. While you can use search engine optimization methods to achieve highly targeted marketing campaigns online, when it comes to viral marketing, it can be hit and miss depending on the millions of variables to measure that are unique to every business’s situation. You can’t just dive right in and expect instant success.