written by: Ada Stoy•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 6/30/2011
A successful viral marketing campaign can make you a star overnight. In the history of Web there are many examples of successful viral marketing campaigns, and if you want to join their ranks, you need to know the rules for this.
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If you haven't discovered the power of viral marketing yet, you have missed a lot. This type of promotion is very efficient and if you manage to harness its power, this can literally crash your servers with traffic. Here are 10 viral marketing campaign rules. Following the rules doesn't guarantee you will make millions but if you break even a single rule, this most likely spells failure.
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1. Choose the Right Type of Viral Media
There are many types of viral media and each of them is suitable for a particular purpose. For instance, if you want to make a short how-to media post, then probably a viral video is your best bet. On the contrary, if you want to go into more detail, consider an ebook because in it you can provide as much detail as needed, while with videos you'd better stick to no more than 5 minutes. The length of videos limits how much info you can provide without boring the viewers.
Viral articles are another type of viral media to consider. All equal, viral articles aren't as attractive and useful as viral ebooks and viral videos are and because of this, they tend to bring less traffic than ebooks and videos. However, since it might take you less than half an hour to prepare a viral article in contrast to the days and weeks you will need for the preparation of a viral ebook, don't neglect the potential of viral articles.
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2. Think about How to Automate the Spread of the Message
The best thing about viral messages is that they (are intended to) spread automatically. This isn't always obvious and because of this, you might want to include an explicit call to action in the message itself. For instance, you can have something like this: “If you think this video/ebook/article/etc. is useful, feel free to share it with other people." Such calls to action increase the number of people who will share the message, thus facilitating its distribution.
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3. Build a Network to Promote Your Viral Message
Using random people to promote your message could work but generally better results come when you use a network of people you know. Your Facebook and Twitter friends (and their friends, too) are the first networks to try. If your viral media appeals to your Facebook/Twitter friends, they will propagate it to their friends, who in turn will propagate it to their friends and so on. This will kick start the viral campaign and in one point strangers will be promoting your viral media because of the recommendation they got from a friend of theirs.
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4. Use Share-It Buttons
When you make it easier for people to share your content, this also speeds its distribution. Share-It links make it easier to submit to social bookmarking sites. For each of the major CMS (i.e. Joomla and WordPress) there are numerous Share-It buttons, so just choose one, download it, install it as you would install any other plugin (there is nothing complicated, even if you are a total stranger to CMS), and you are ready to go. Later, when visitors come to your site and like your article, they can easily click a Share-It button to share the article with their friends on Twitter and Facebook, or to bookmark it.
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5. Put the Viral Media In a Visible Place on Your Site
If users have to search for your viral link, this drastically decreases the success rate of your viral campaign. This is why you need to put the viral media in a visible place on your site. However, putting the viral media in a visible place doesn't mean you should splash it all over your site – moderation is key here.
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6. Make the Ads Unobtrusive
Your viral material must contain some form of advertisement for your business but just don't go over the limits. You must include your logo and contact info for sure but don't make your viral material overflowing with ads. More ads just make the video less efficient – viewers are distracted and they might not notice your main ad, which basically kills the viral campaign as a whole.
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7. Use Only Good Quality Viral Materials
The quality of the viral material you are using is of primary importance for the success of the campaign. Obviously, you can't go with crappy content because in this case nobody will be willing to share it. Nobody says that you must spend a fortune on your viral materials – you can get quality content on a budget.
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8. Don't Spam
Everybody hates spammers, so don't make the mistake to use spam techniques to promote your message. You can send your viral material to people you know (or have on your subscribers' list) but don't go blasting thousands of emails to people who have never heard of you.
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9. Consider Offline Promotion
Viral marketing evolved from the offline Word of Mouth marketing, so don't neglect the offline potential to spread your message. If you are using ebooks, you can make some printouts to hand to your offline clients. If you are using viral videos, create some CDs with the video and hand them to your offline clients, too.
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10. Measure Your Performance
Finally, you can never know how successful your viral marketing campaign is if you don't measure its performance. You can use sophisticated software for sure but even if you don't go beyond examination of log files, this is OK. What you need to know is the number of hits and where they come from. You can also track the number of conversions and/or profits you have made but since it is harder to tell how much of them are due to your viral campaign and how much are due to other reasons, the results could be misleading.
Viral marketing is a very powerful tool and it can make miracles for your traffic. If you follow the tips in this article, your viral marketing campaigns will certainly be more successful.