Viral marketing – just what is it? Though it may sound like something decidedly nasty, something you might catch if you’re not too careful, the opposite is in fact true. Viral marketing can be described as a marketing strategy which encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, thereby creating the potential for the message’s exposure and influence to grow exponentially.
The term was coined by California venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson after their investment in Hotmail grew dramatically. Hotmail is the quintessential example of viral marketing. By automatically including an advertisement to sign up for free email service at the end of every email message, Hotmail acquired more than 12 million users in just a year and a half.
By utilizing the idea of gossip, which is fundamental to the human condition, viral marketing has the potential to spread like wildfire, or like a virus. It can rapidly multiply your message and expose it to thousands, if not millions, of viewers. In the non-Internet world of marketing, it can be likened to ‘word-of-mouth’ or ‘network marketing’ or seen as ‘creating a buzz’.
Some forms of viral marketing work better than others. One of the most common and easiest techniques is the ‘tell a friend’ feature. This allows a visitor to send an email from your plastic surgery site to a friend with a link to your site. This is a great way to get more people to your site because they will be more inclined to do something if it was suggested by someone they know. The ‘tell a friend’ feature can be executed in a number of ways. After a given article, you could include a link that says ‘Did you find this article helpful? Send it to a friend’. Remember, however, that the key is to provide something with enough interest that it can create a buzz. This may take a little thought and creativity in order to apply it to your plastic surgery website, but it certainly can be done. For instance, you could include a news page on your site with regularly updated, plastic surgery-related stories that are in the news, stories that are compelling and interesting. You could also include a page titled something to the effect of ‘The Lighter Side of Plastic Surgery’ which, while still tasteful, could include humorous or amusing jokes, anecdotes or stories related to plastic surgery. And, of course, after any of these would be your ‘tell a friend’ link.
Another often-used viral marketing technique involves the creation of articles. You can write articles, post them on the web, and allow other sites to post your articles as well. These articles have the potential to produce a phenomenal amount of traffic in a very short period of time. Electronic books are another viral marketing technique. You simply create an ebook and give it away for free. Ebooks, or at least good ones, are frequently downloaded and passed on to others. For your plastic surgery website, you could provide a downloadable guide to choosing a plastic surgeon. It doesn’t have to be long, it just has to be helpful and valuable.
There are other viral marketing techniques, though not all of them will be apropos for your plastic surgery site. Some examples may include greeting cards which visitors on a site can send to friends and relatives and free email services allowing people to sign up for free email through a given site. Though not all examples of viral marketing will work for your site, don’t simply dismiss them out of hand. With a little creative tweaking, some of these can be not only appropriate but very effective as well. For instance, freeware programs are another popular viral marketing tool. This involves creating a freeware program that you then give away on your site with, of course, links to your site scattered throughout the program. Good programs can produce lots of visitors. Though it could take a significant amount of effort and planning, imagine the buzz you could create if you offered a freeware program on your site which allowed visitors to scan in their picture and then alter their image with digital cosmetic surgery.
It’s important to remember that when it comes to a viral marketing campaign you can never guarantee its success, regardless of how much time and effort you put into it. Like gossip, it simply cannot be controlled. Further, though you may be able to start a buzz about your site, you also cannot always guarantee that that buzz will be a positive one. Nevertheless, viral marketing can be very powerful because your message is placed in a context that is more likely to be considered seriously given that it is received from someone an individual already knows. Viral marketing can provide you with the potential to really reach your audience, and often at a very low cost.