Part 20 Viral Marketing: Use Your Employees

The best advocates you have for your business are already on your payroll. Your employees already have a vested interest in getting the word out about your company. If you succeed, they get to keep their jobs, but if you fail, they may find themselves unemployed.

Your employees know your business like no one else does. They can discuss the ins and outs of your business, and tell others why your product or service is superior to the competition. Enthusiastic employees will spread the word to family, friends, and colleagues about your company, and you do not even have to pay them anything extra to do it. It is part of their normal conversation with people. Back in the early days of the computer industry, IBM ruled the world of technology.

A lot of computer companies were trying to get their legs under them, but IBM was the king. One of the reasons IBM was able to continually withstand the ever increasing competition was that they understood the power their employees had to market the company.

They had a ready-made marketing team made up of engineers, secretaries, accountants, and programmers. By harnessing that power they were able to build a stellar reputation in the computer industry. From the day they were first hired, IBM employees were taught how to be advocates for the company.

They were trained in the company‟s values, and were shown the quality of the products they were helping to build. They bought into IBM‟s corporate culture, and they, in turn, shared what they knew with anyone who would listen.

The technology world heard the message so often, and from so many different people, that they never questioned the fact that IBM was the best. The key to success is your ability to assemble a loyal dedicated workforce. If you can do that, then you have the potential to tap into some of that power as well.

Turn your employees into a marketing team and let them spread the word about how great your company is. If they truly believe it, their enthusiasm will become infectious. People will believe what your employees say, because it is obvious that your employees believe it themselves.


Part 19 Viral Marketing: Write Articles For Article Publishers

I mentioned earlier that people are more likely to listen to someone that they consider to be an expert. Why cant that expert be you? If you know enough about a topic to build a business around it, you are an expert. All it takes is a little marketing to show others that you are an expert. One method of establishing yourself as an expert and gaining some exposure for yourself and your business is to write articles for ezines and article publishers.

You write an article relating to your business, and then post it to one of the online publishing services. When people read your article, they will see that you know what you are talking about.

The more places you can get your name and the name of your business, the better the chances of people remembering who you are. Over time with multiple exposure you begin to build brand recognition.

There are two different ways online article publishers let you get your name out. Some sites, like ezinearticles.com, let you put a short 1-2 sentence “About the Author” section at the end of your article. You get the opportunity to put together a brief statement about yourself and your business, and a link back to your site.

You can talk about yourself, your business, and why the reader should believe what you say. You can also include multiple links that will lead the reader into your site. When readers click on the link to come to your site they are what marketers refer to as “pre-qualified”. They chose to be there based on the information they read.

They were not tricked into visiting your site, and they were not pressured to go there by spam emails.

They are there by choice, and that makes them more receptive to your message, and increases the probability that they will purchase your products or services.

Beside the traffic that comes to your site directly from your article, if the article is really good it may end up on one of the social bookmark sites like Digg, Stumble Upon, or del.ico.us. If your article gets ranked in one of these sites, it can bring a lot of visitors to your site in a very short period of time.

That burst of visitors might last for only a day or two, but it could also linger in the top rankings for days or weeks. Another side benefit of writing articles is that they can provide a small amount of residual income to you. Many of these sites offer revenue sharing that will give you a small portion of the advertising that the article generates. The amount you get per article usually is not very much, but enough articles over time can add up.


Part 18 Viral Marketing: Build A Community

One of the reasons for the ever increasing popularity of the internet is that it allows like minded people to get together from anywhere in the world.

From sports to politics to gum wrapper collectors; if it is something you are interested in, chances are very good that you can find someone who shares your interests.

Take a look at Yahoo Groups.

They host hundreds of thousands of different groups from around the world. A search for “viral marketing” groups brought a list of 360 different groups. While I‟m not suggesting you try to become the next Yahoo Groups, it does demonstrate the desire for internet users to get together with people who share the same interests. One method you could consider 42 to take advantage of this is to host a forum on your website. Find an area of interest that is related to your business, and set up a forum on that topic.

Allow your users a way to leave messages in the forum, or contact each other using email or an instant messaging program, and maybe even set up chat rooms where they can engage in active discussions. As the host of the forum you could help answer any questions, which will help to further establish you as an expert in your field. You would also help moderate discussions, and share new and interesting information.

Encourage your users to participate. Give them the ability to share ideas and to establish themselves as experts. Make it a safe, friendly environment where they can share their opinions (within reason). If your community stays active, it will continue to grow, and some of the community members will become customers. You can find some very good forum programs that are available for free.

Download the program and upload it to your web host and you are up and running. Many of the web host companies have software as part of their hosting packages geared toward building communities on your site.

They make it very easy to set up forums, chat rooms, guest books and more. Building a community in this way will bring people that are interested in your line of business to your website. Once they are there, it is easy for them to look around at what you have to offer them. Because they 43 are already interested, it is much more likely that they will take advantage of what your business offers.


Part 17 Viral Marketing: Offer An e-comment or e-card Service

Social networks have become an extremely popular way for people to stay in touch with each other. Things can go pretty viral on it. While a lot of the publicity on these sites have gotten is because of the teens and college students that use them, businesses have discovered they are a useful way to build their networks as well. Some of the sites are very bare-bones, but some of them are quite elaborate. One thing most of them have in common is a place for visitors to leave comments.

Many times these comments are messages back and forth between friends, but some of the messages are small digital pictures and graphics with a pre-written message. There are web sites that provide these comments free to their viewers. If you see one you like and want to share with a friend, you can copy and paste a small line of code into your friends comment box, and the comment will appear.

When you look at these comments you will notice that on every one there is a company name or web address at the bottom. Most of these graphics are clickable links that will take the viewer back to the web site of the person that created it.

If your comment is attractive or quirky enough, social network users will start sharing it with their friends. When their friends (or their friend’s visitors) see the graphic, they will click on it to see what other comments you have to offer. While many businesses are using these services to build their networks, the majority of users are teens, young adults, and women.

If your business is aimed toward adult men, this method may have limited success, but if you are marketing to the younger generation, you can bring a flood of traffic to your site with this method. A similar service you can offer is free e-cards. People are always searching for cards to send to friends, family members, acquaintances, and co-workers.

They are easy to use, and have maintained their popularity over the years. These cards come in several different varieties; with or without music and static or animated. Some are very simple animations; others are very elaborate Flash animations. Once the person finds the card they like, they can fill in the message box, add the email of the person they are sending it to, and press the send button.

An email is sent telling the recipient that their friend has sent them a card, and it gives them a link to click that will allow them to view the card. The person receiving the card gets a message from a friend to enjoy and a small line telling them who sponsored the card. Because you are hosting the card service, the viewer is already at your site.

You just have to give them a good reason to click the links that will take them where you want them to go.

In early 2006 job listing service CareerBuilder.com launched a program called Monk-e-mail. With the click of a mouse you could choose which chimpanzee you wanted to use with your card, then personalise that chimp with different clothing, glasses, hats, and backgrounds. Users also had the option of writing or recording their own message, and even had a text to speech functions that allowed the chimp to deliver your message.

As an extra bonus, when you move your mouse around the screen, the chimp follows your movement.

Within 3 months of launching, over 14 million monk-e-mails had been sent. The kicker is that CareerBuilder spent no money in marketing this service. In the first week CareerBuilder sent out 1,500 monk-emails to employees and agencies, and word of mouth did the rest. That is what you call viral!

Monk-e-mail was so original and quirky that the buzz quickly spread across the internet, and even made it to the main stream media outlets. You do not need to create a program as elaborate as monk-e-cards but, it does need to be creative and unique.

If you do digital photography or graphic art, this could be a very good way to use your talent to build traffic to your site, or you could hire a freelance designer to create your cards for you. Do a search for e-cards and you will get a good idea of the types of designs people are using. As always, quality and uniqueness are an advantage.

If you missed part 16 of our viral marketing series you can find it here


Part 16 Viral Marketing: Offer A Digital Game Or Tool That Carries Your Message

Games are another thing that can make content go viral on the internet. I’m not talking about intensive multiplayer games that take place in a virtual world, just simple games that people can play at their desk on a break at work.

If you or someone you know has any experience using Macromedia’s Flash, this can be an excellent way to get your businesses name in front of a lot of eyes. Like everything else, if you do not know how to do it yourself, all you have to do is look around and you will find someone who is willing to do it for you.

This is another area where being creative will serve you well. The game does not have to be an entirely new idea, but the more unique it is, the more interest, and traffic, it will generate. Do a search for “flash games” and you will see thousands of games that people can play without any downloading or programs to install.

You can also see that all of the games are not entirely unique.  Some are simply a twist on an older classic game, but there has to be something different for it to work for you. The internet probably does not need another version of Tetris, but a Tetris like game with different shaped animals instead of blocks might get you some attention.

If your game catches on, there are quite a few sites that will advertise your game for you, and some that will even host a copy of your game on their site. When someone decides to play your game, you can put an advertisement about your business that they can see while they are waiting for the game to load.

One great example of using a free game for marketing is Peerflix. They created a game called “Paparazzi” that made fun of celebrities. The idea went viral and was quickly picked up by Entertainment Weekly, E Online, and most of the game sites. Within 90 days of the games launch, it had logged over 2 million unique visitors.

The great part for Peerflix is that nearly 5 percent of those visitors made their way over to the main part of the website, which was the reason they created the game in the first place.

Another option is to offer a free tool or resource that people will find useful. While some of these options might cost you a little more to develop and host, if they get exposure and become popular, they are an excellent way to get people visiting your site repeatedly.

Calendars, organizers, and reminder services are all ways to get your businesses name in front of your potential customers. Quirky screensavers are another great program to offer. Every time the user’s computer sits idle for a few minutes, your message pops up on the screen.

The trick is to put your message in a place where it can be seen, but it should not be the focal point. People are not interested in downloading your advertisement, but they will accept the advertisement as a small price to pay for something of greater value.

If your program works well and is seen as useful, users will tell other people about it, they will write about it on their blogs, and they will link to your program from their websites. That is what going viral is all about.

The great part about both of these options is it gives you repeated visibility. Marketing experts have determined that on average it takes being exposed to something at least 7 times before people will act on it.

The more often people see your message, the more likely they are to do something about what they see. Advertisers and politicians put their message in as many places as possible so people will get exposed to it multiple times. That is what gets people attention.

That is all for now. If you missed Part 15 here it is again.