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We've all heard the term "viral marketing" or "viral advertising". But what does "viral" mean exactly in these instances? First off let's look at the word "viral". Viral comes from "virus", which many of us may automatically think of as something bad. A virus is an infection that replicates and spreads by itself. If you get a virus, you're laid up for a while to recover. If your computer gets a virus, well, it may never recover. But as far as marketing is concerned, for the most part, viruses are good. In this instance a virus is a replicating, spreading idea that sells a product or service. Of course, not every viral idea sells something - think of the dancing baby videos that made the rounds through email back in the 1990s. Certainly was viral, but it didn't really sell anything or propose any new ideas except some animation that was pretty cool for its time. And it introduced us all to the fact that something - an idea, a video - COULD spread similar to the way a virus spreads. The hard part is making that viral element actually produce something of value, not just entertainment for the client or your boss. - Seth Godin What is Viral Marketing? So even though it didn't sell anything, the dancing baby is a good example of a viral idea. People passed it around to their friends and co-workers for only one reason: they WANTED to. And that is the key - your audience has to WANT to share it. But this may not be as easy to control as you may think. You may have an awesome idea or product, but that doesn't mean it can go viral. How about the "Will It Blend" videos from Blendtec? I mean, you could spend days watching that guy blend up everything from golf balls to cell phones. When they first started I got emails telling me that I HAD to watch these videos. It was a story on the local and national news. Talk shows were talking about it. Heck even the two ladies I always see in the park were chatting about it as they passed me on the trail one day. For a while, Will It Blend was all over the place. But did they sell blenders? According to the 2008 NY Times article, Mixing It Up, by Rob Walker: Jeff Robe, the company's (Blendtec) marketing director, says Web popularity has created "a brand presence that we did not have..." and that " sales have risen 600 percent since the videos started." But percentages can be misleading, and the private company doesn't get more specific than that...I would say that even if 600% is a tad off...that still some good exposure for their products.

Bottom line is, people shared those videos because they enjoyed them and wanted their friends to enjoy them too. Its a good viral example because the company benefited in a few ways from it: increased on line visibility and increased sales. Here are 3 things to remember when it comes to viral marketing, courtesy of The Six Simple Principles of Viral Marketing by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson: For something to be successfully viral, it must: 1. Give away valuable products or services Viral marketers practice delayed gratification. They may not profit today, or tomorrow, but if they can generate a groundswell of interest from something free, they know they will profit "soon and for the rest of their lives" (with apologies to "Casablanca"). Patience, my friends. Free attracts eyeballs. Eyeballs then see other desirable things that you are selling, and, presto! you earn money. Eyeballs bring valuable e-mail addresses, advertising revenue, and e-commerce sales opportunities. Give away something, sell something. 2. Provide for effortless transfer to others All anyone has to do to pass it on is just click "Send". 3. Scale easily from small to very large If the Blendtec web site crashed during the deluge of people wanting to watch their videos, the experiment would have failed. You have to be ready for lots of people to climb on board. It needs to be simple: click - watch. Not click, wait for it to download, maybe try back, that's when you lose them for good. Getting something to go viral is not easy and not everything is a good viral candidate. It has to seem natural. You can't force viral. All you can do is create something - a video, a photo, etc. - put it out there and hope it gets picked up. Of course its easier now to do viral marketing than it was even 5 years ago. Because of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the rest, more people are on line for more hours and so your change of being seen is greater. And getting seen is half the battle. Viral marketing can be a useful and cost efficient tool. But it should be just one tool that you're using in a marketing plan that integrates a variety of initiatives and creative ideas.

Joyce Dierschke is a marketing communications copywriter specializing in emerging, broadcast, and print media. Marketing's ever-changing landscape demands an agile copywriter. Crossplatform exposure and expanding campaigns require a communicator with a variety of skills. If you're looking for someone to write compelling copy for your next initiative, call Joyce! For more information or to contact Joyce, visit:

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==== ==== Noted Internet Marketer Launches Five E-Books Aimed At Internet Entrepreneurs ==== ====

A Simple Explanation About Viral Marketing