The Power of Viral Marketing

What is viral marketing and how does it work? Viral marketing can best be described as “Internet word-of-mouth”. It is seen as a 3rd party, unbiased referral of an offer, product or service and is given more credibility because it is coming from a friend. No doubt you have heard the old adage "she told two friends, then they told two friends and so on and so on..." You may have heard viral marketing referred to as V-Marketing, organic marketing, word-of-mouth marketing or word-of-mouse marketing. The benefits of this extremely affordable and nearly effortless marketing tool are astonishing. In the US, 64% of the people will try something recommended to them by a friend. In addition, a person will relay a positive experience online to an average of 12 people, which equates to five times as many people as they tell offline. So, how exactly do you implement this amazing marketing strategy?

1. Tips

A successful viral marketing strategy should take the following elements into consideration:
  • Should give away something of value (coupons, e-specials, newsletters, etc.)
  • Be sent to others with little effort
  • Should utilize existing communication networks
If you want a higher rate of referral you might want to offer an incentive. For example "Send this coupon to 3 friends and be entered into our monthly draw for a free weekend stay at our resort...or a free round of golf for 4...or lift tickets for 4 at our ski hill..." or whatever appropriate prize you have for your target market. 

Viral Marketing can be seen in many forms:
  • free greeting cards or postcards on Web sites
  • "tell-a-friend” links to recommend a site or service to a friend or associate
  • send a newsletter to a friend
  • send a copy of e-specials or coupons to a friend 
  • "tell-a-friend" about our associate or affiliate program

The design and placement of the viral marketing elements is crucial to the effectiveness of the strategy. One should keep the following criteria in mind when implementing any of these elements:

  • Must be easy to comprehend
  • Should stand out clearly from the rest of the web site content
  • Give concise directions on how to act
  • Offer an incentive to the referrer
  • Short is better
A prime example of viral marketing can be seen on the first page of this newsletter:
"Feel free to pass this newsletter on to a friend who may benefit from its resources. If you received this email through a friend and would like to join our mailing list, click here and type "subscribe" in the subject line." We have also included a graphic on the right hand side to reinforce this visually.

2. Tools

One of the most effective forms of viral marketing is the use of the “tell-a-friend” element on your web site. (In fact, it is recommended that many pages within your web site incorporate this technique for ultimate exposure). The user supplies the contact information of a friend or associate that they feel could benefit from your product or service. Once they hit the send button, an email is sent along to the addressees telling them about the great product or service your web site offers. Remember, because the referrer is seen as an unbiased 3rd party the recipient is more likely to visit your web site to take advantage of the offer. To assist you in implementing this viral marketing technique there are a number of web sites that provide “tell-a-friend” scripts. One is listed below as well as an example of a script in action.  
Through networking, your web site visitors push traffic to your location and promote your site's unique offerings of qualities. Recommend-It's® "visitor-generated" personalized email referrals create excitement that doesn't diminish. Each time a user visits your web site and tells a friend, your web site wins. Be the next big buzz with Recommend-It's® referrals technology.
Use this free tool to create your own "tell-a-friend" script, we did!

Tell A Friend Example
Check out a “tell-a-friend” script in action on our Web site!

3. Techniques

As mentioned there are a number of methods of invoking this marketing plan and a few ideas are listed below to stimulate your brainstorming session:
  • Offer a free newsletter filled with valuable content aimed at your target market and encourage subscribers to send a copy to a friend. Also make it easy for those who received it from a friend to subscribe themselves.
  • Offer free email postcards or greeting cards from your Web site
  • Implement a system on your Web site and look at all of your repeat traffic generators for viral marketing opportunities (such as contests, e-specials, coupons, specials and deals)
  • Create an opt-in mailing list for notification of updates to your Web site with a summary of changes
  • Send a copy of an article that may appear on your Web site (works best with a graphic icon).

Some key points to consider as well when incorporating any of these ideas into your viral marketing plan is to remember that privacy is vital for success. Users will only pass along information and new subscribers will only subscribe if they feel that the contact information is in trusted hands. Having a privacy policy that is clearly stated on your web site is the best practice.

In addition, with the prevalent spread of destructive viruses on the Internet, you should avoid using attachments on the message you are trying to spread. Many security measures have been put into place in larger corporations to prevent employees from opening attachments which may contain potentially harmful viruses. The fact is most people are cautious about opening unsolicited attachments. 

4. Resources

I have included a couple of resources for you to check out when developing your viral marketing strategy. For additional resources on a variety of topics, I recommend you visit the resources section of my Web site at There you will find additional tips, tools, techniques and resources.  

Sticky and Viral Site Marketing
A great article from Web Developers Journal that is filled with viral marketing ideas for your site as well as tools for implementing them.

Tips for Optimizing Viral Marketing CampaignsA great list of tips for making the most of your viral marketing campaign.

Wilson Web – Viral Marketing Techniques the Typical Business Web Site Can Deploy
Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, E-Commerce Consultant gives the reader some ideas for viral marketing on their web site. In fact Dr. Wilson’s entire site ( provides valuable information on Internet marketing topics.

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