The beauty of viral marketing is that your message spreads itself – once you’ve come up with something that is either exceptionally useful, interesting, entertaining or all of the above, your target audience is more than happy to spread the word on your behalf. It’s really nothing more than good old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising, and therefore can have a great deal of credibility among consumers.
Although associated today primarily with email marketing (the best known examples are the taglines attached to Yahoo! emails), the concept of viral marketing has been around for decades; MLM businesses such as Amway are good examples of viral marketing in the brick-and-mortar world.
Like other effective forms of Internet marketing, a viral marketing message must offer something of immediate value – information, entertainment, a service. etc. Remember that the word “free” is the most powerful word in online advertising. It must also be convenient and easily transferred. For example, attachments are likely to kill a viral marketing message very quickly. Assuming that your potential customers are not trapped on a dial-up connection, many firewalls and other forms of online protection don’t even allow unsolicited attachments to get through. Confine all offers to the body of the e-mail, and include a link to another website if necessary.
The old wisdom about motivators definitely applies to such online advertising; remember that consumers are motivated primarily through emotions; greed, fear and vanity are among the most important. Finally, keep in mind that humans are essentially social creatures who love to engage in conversations. If you want your viral marketing efforts to yield fruit, give them something to talk about. If that something is about your product or service, it won’t be long before its all over the Web via social networking.