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More and more, businesses are figuring out that telling a story is good marketing. This is evident when you read about these social media hoaxes that people easily fell for, including top social media website Mashable.

In two of the hoaxes, a popular TV show host was behind the event. Both Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel foisted hoaxes on unsuspecting Net citizens.

But I’d like to discuss two other hoaxes on the list:

  1. The Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax
  2. and the Kiss Cam Breakup hoax

In both of these cases, the story itself is what made the hoax go viral. Manti Te’o was a Notre Dame football star who now plays for the San Diego Chargers. Allegedly, his long long-time girlfriend died in a car accident last January, except that the girl reported to have died in the accident didn’t exist. It didn’t stop the American public from latching onto the story and gasping in awe.

The Kiss Cam Breakup is actually a bit funny. Two Grizzlies employees staged a stunt on the Kiss Cam at one of the Grizzlies baseball games. Supposedly, the man wouldn’t get off the phone and kiss his girlfriend for the Jumbotron so she dumped her drink on him.

Stories capture people’s imaginations. True or not, it’s a great way to get people’s attention for your brand. Just be sure that, if you try this, you do it in an ethical way.

Not all story marketing needs to be done by video, but video is a powerful medium, so knock your lights out.

Going viral can be a lot of fun, and for a business it can be really profitable. But at what cost?

One fan wasn’t doing it for the business, but he went viral in a very un-recommended way. @MasoneDylan posted on Twitter that he’d run across the field at the Major League Baseball All-Star game if he got 1,000 retweets. He ended up getting 3,552.

Now, I have to ask this question: What would you do for 1,000 retweets?

Keep in mind that a retweet doesn’t necessarily mean more money in your pocket. Those social media users may never visit your website and may never buy your widget. But you’d get a lot of publicity, especially if you do something stupid like interrupt a professional sporting event.

Some people get desperate for attention. Business owners are not immune to it either. Be sure, before you do something risky, that you stand at least a good chance of seeing positive results from your crazy antics. It’s OK to do something wild from time to time as long as you don’t endanger people’s lives and you don’t end up ruining your reputation. These kinds of antics are a risk.

If you want to go viral, think a little on the crazy side, but stay away from the stupid side.

If you send out e-mails on a regular basis, then you need to take some time out to clean up your e-mail list. And you should do it within the next four days.

Why the urgency?

Because Yahoo! is closing inactive e-mail accounts on July 15, 2013.

Constant Contact explains the situation pretty clearly. If one of your subscribers hasn’t logged into their Yahoo! e-mail account within the past 12 months, then their account will be closed. One of two things could happen that will affect your e-mail marketing.

  1. Your e-mails to closed Yahoo! accounts will start bouncing
  2. or, Someone else will secure some of those accounts and start receiving your e-mails, in which case you could be reported as a spammer.

That means you should take time out right now to clean up your e-mail list – before July 15, 2013. But you should also make a point to clean your list at least once a year.

Some e-mail marketers have policies stating they don’t deliver mail to Yahoo! accounts, for reasons similar to this. It’s too easy for someone to set up an account at one of the free web-based services and then forget about it. Then your e-mails are sent off to e-mail marketing limbo.

It’s up to you what you do about such matters, but if you take no action, then the matter will be decided for you.

Seth Godin shares his secret for writing viral content. But is it really that simple? Is all you have to do is write for one person?

Well, yes and no.

It seems simple, and it is. But it’s not easy. The first thing you need to know about viral content is that no one can write viral content every day. Not everything you write is going to go viral. But if you can write one piece of viral content every 30-60 days, then you can make a big impact in your niche. Even if you write one piece of viral content every six months, you’ll make a big impact.

Seth Godin is right about one thing, however. You can’t plan viral content.

You can plan content, and you should. The way to write your content is to think of your ideal audience. Who are you writing to? Write to that person as if your life depends on it. And embed enough value into your content that the person you are writing to cannot help but share it. Make it so valuable that they can’t refuse.

Viral marketing is more a phenomenon than a planned event. That doesn’t mean you can’t plan your marketing efforts. You should plan every piece of content you write. But you can’t predict how people respond. Sometimes, things go viral you never would have expected. That’s a good thing.

There is a new art form, and a new marketing strategy, that involves using a variety of media to tell separate stories of the same characters or worlds. It’s called transmedia storytelling.

Transmedia storytelling is different than cross-media storytelling. With cross-media, you are telling the same story. With transmedia storytelling, you are telling separate stories of the same characters that run parallel. Many new entertainment brands are using transmedia storytelling by incorporating the following media to present worlds in different ways:

  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Websites
  • Podcasts
  • E-books
  • Movies/film
  • Mobile apps
  • Theater
  • And more

The big question is how can businesses take the principles of transmedia storytelling and apply them to marketing and branding?

Like a lot of things, there’s not just one way to do it. But it takes some creativity and thinking outside of the box to pull it off.

For instance, why not create a character or mascot that represents your business? Then you can give that character a voice by choosing someone to play that character in a series of entertainment videos where your brand, product, market niche, or customer need is the central message.

Next, set up a Twitter account where you tweet in the voice of the character.

Make your mascot the central character in an e-book.

Blog in that character’s voice daily.

When you go about these ordinary marketing activities, be sure that you are adding value to your audience’s lives. Entertain them while you inform them. Make it fun.

Super Bowl XLVII was one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history. And like most Super Bowls in recent years, you can find the topic trending on all the major social media – Google+, Twitter, where else?

You’d naturally expect the Super Bowl to be a trending topic. But what about local content?

You can create local content that goes viral. You may not see it on the social media trending charts, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t trending locally. Of course, there’s no metric (that I’m aware of) that measures local trends. But your end goal isn’t to do better than everyone else in measuring trends. It’s to get your content out there far and wide – to go viral.

What tools are available to you to help your content go viral? Essentially, the same tools that are available to the Super Bowl marketers.

You have Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and more.

On Facebook, if you look at your page metrics, you’ll see a Virality metric. That means Facebook measures the viral output of your brand page’s content. If you create great content and share it on your page to your followers, all it takes is a handful of your followers liking it or sharing it before it can go viral. Remember, it’s got to be great content.

One of the keys to developing local content that goes viral is to develop online relationships with local clientele. Get them to follow you. But you can also push your content out in other ways. Consider:

  • Your blog
  • Your e-mail newsletter
  • Your print newsletter
  • YouTube
  • Local billboards
  • Local TV and radio
  • Local newspapers
  • Bag stuffers and flyers

And don’t forget word of mouth. Let your customers know that you have a website and a blog. Let them know that you post to your blog often. And sign them up for your newsletter. Get the word out. Your content can go viral.

A new study shows SmartPhone clicks have gone up 105% year over year since last year. Traffic from tablet users has gone up a whopping 339% year over year.

Are you astounded?

You shouldn’t be. We’ve been saying mobile marketing is growing, and now we have the proof. In fact, it’s growing by leaps and bounds.

Click traffic overall is up 21% in the U.S.

If you are engaged in online marketing or e-commerce at all, then you need to pay attention to these numbers. I don’t think this is a fluke. I fully expect these trends to continue for at least 3-5 years. More and more people are using Smartphones and using them for shopping online. People are using their Smartphones for finding local businesses and making purchases from global businesses online. Now the question to ask is, how can you tap into that money?

The first step is to make sure that your website is mobile-ready. That includes design as well as your ordering system. Can mobile users access your website?

After making sure that mobile users can access your website and use it, try marketing it. That’s right, marketing your mobile site is a tad bit different than marketing your main website. You can use PPC ads to drive traffic to your mobile site and use other acceptable online marketing methods to reach mobile customers specifically just as you do in searching for other customers.

The age of mobile has arrived. Don’t pass up this opportunity.

Going viral is not easy to do. And it’s getting harder all the time. As more people go online to build websites and participate in online marketing of some sort, there is more and more competition for eyes and ears. In one sense, your competition is everyone who is seeking a voice online.

The good news is, most of those people know nothing about Internet marketing. They are just chattering.

Still, you cut out those competitors and the online competition for virality is still stiff. So how do you move from obscurity to virality?

There is no sure-fire recipe for going viral. That’s something you have to understand right up front. A lot of it depends on serendipity. You’ve got to have the right content at the right time and put it in front of the right people at the right venue. There is a lot you don’t have control over, but there is a lot that you do, too. Let’s focus on what you do have control over.

  • The right content – Take some extra time to prepare great content that really shines. It can be a video, an infographic, or just an article. But it’s got to be the best thing out there on the topic you are publishing about.
  • The right time – I don’t mean you should publish your content at 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. There is no optimal time for your content. You live in a global village where the Internet light is turned on 24/7. But keep in mind that if you publish an article about last year’s biggest news story while people are chit-chatting about something else, then you’re too late. Be sure you hit that topic at the right time. For a lot of news, there is a short window of opportunity and that window could be short.
  • The right people – Who is your target audience? What type of person do you want to see your content and interact with it? Define your audience and tailor your content to meet the needs of the audience.
  • The right venue – If your content is a video, post it to YouTube. If it is an infographic, publish it on your website or blog. If an article, guest blog it (or find the place with the most traffic consisting of your perfect target audience). After you’ve defined your audience, find out where they hang out. Then go there and publish your message.

Going viral can’t always be planned, but if you don’t have a good plan for your content, then the chances that it will go viral are tremendously diminished.

What can Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield teach you about Internet marketing? No joke. How’s this for a lesson:

    Laugh at the past and use it in the present to build your future with viral video.

That’s a mouthful, and if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, read this article at WebProNews. It seems that these once bitter foes have become friends and now are joking about the incident years ago when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear during a fight – not once, but twice. Tyson lost the match by default. Now they’re laughing about it and it seems they’re laughing their way to the bank.

Evander Holyfield, like George Foreman, has turned his boxing fame into an entrepreneur’s dream. He has his own line of BBQ sauce. Mike Tyson tweeted, “.@holyfield’s ear would’ve been much better with his new BBQ sauce. check it out #TGIF.”

Doesn’t that just make you want to go out and buy Evander’s BBQ sauce?

It actually is brilliant marketing. The tweet is getting millions of views and the BBQ sauce is gaining more market share.

If you’ve got an incident in the past that you can use to poke fun of in the name of your business, why not capture it on video? Use it. Your life can be your message.

Did you know you can make your Facebook posts go viral and Facebook will let you know when it happens? That is, if you have a Facebook page.

A Facebook page is one of the best marketing tools you can have for your business. Facebook Insights is a tool that allows you to measure your effectiveness in posting to your Facebook page. You can do it too often and you can do it not often enough. Insights will give you a clear picture of your reach and let you know whether you should scale back or plunge on.

There are 4 key metrics with Facebook Insights.

  1. Reach
  2. Engaged users
  3. Talking about this
  4. Virality

Reach is the number of unique people who have seen a post on your Facebook page. Ideally, you want this number to be high. If you post too often fewer people will pay attention to you. Build up your readership by posting once or twice a week, but no more than once or twice a day.

Engaged users is the number of unique people who clicked on a post. Again, you want it to be high, but people won’t click if you don’t post engaging content.

Talking about this is the metric that measures how many unique people respond to a post. This includes Likes, shares, comments, answers a poll, etc.

And virality is the measure of the number of people who themselves have created a story from your post. It is calculated by dividing the number of people talking about your post by your Reach. Keep your readers engaged and post interesting content that they want to read about and your Facebook posts will go viral.

The best viral marketing sometimes just happens. Such was the case recently when hundreds of thousands of people shared a photo of a smiling man within minutes. The man has since come to be called The Ridiculously Photogenic Man.

Which is, uhm, a bit ridiculous.

But of course, it took off and soon after news and talk shows on TV were discussing him. Talk about going viral. It doesn’t get any more viral than that.

And the thing is, the man whose image went viral didn’t even know about it until after it happened. Not only was it not planned, but he didn’t even have knowledge of it. Still, he reaped the rewards of 15 minutes of fame and the Cooper River Bridge Run got some notoriety from it as well.

So here’s the eternal question. How can social media marketers learn to go viral using this meme as an example. What can we learn from it?

  1. No. 1, I think it’s important to point out that promoting someone else first can go a long way. The John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health is a good cause. They didn’t plan this or have anything to do with it, but they certainly can reap the benefits from a viral meme that spun out of control.
  2. Step back and let it run. Don’t force it. Let others take the ball and run.
  3. Just put it out there. You never know what will happen if you put a little drop into the stream. That’s a metaphor for “just do it.”

Viral marketing doesn’t always have to be planned. Sometimes the best way to get a little attention is to be spontaneous.

I’m guessing Stacy Green coined the acronym P.O.E.M. I Googled it and got no results. She published her post introducing the acronym just four hours ago.

So what does it mean?

P.O.E.M. is an acronym that stands for Paid, Owned, Earned Media. We’re talking about content here.

I think it’s a useful acronym, especially for businesses that are accustomed to developing public relations campaigns for print and offline media. You can take this acronym and use it for offline, or digital media.

  • Paid – This refers to pay per click advertising, in-text paid links, banner advertising, and other forms of online media that you pay for. Do you have a plan for paid media? Can you measure your results?
  • Owned – Owned media of course is a reference to media you create in-house. It includes your website, videos that you create, articles you publish off-site, blog posts, and any other type of media that you have the copyright to. You own that media.
  • Earned Media – In the old days of offline marketing, earned media meant sending a press release to a news editor somewhere and hoping he found your story worthy of journalistic mention. Today, you don’t necessarily need professional journalists and editors, though they can help. Earned media includes interviews with bloggers, social media shares by celebrity networkers, and virtually any digital move that involves other people in an online format – forums, videos, blogs, social networks, etc. If it goes viral, that’s the ultimate earned media.

A good marketing strategy involves all three of these types of media. Plan it, implement it, and measure it. Follow a useful strategy and your online marketing efforts stand a much better chance of succeeding.

Everyone wants link bait. But link bait doesn’t grow on trees. And it’s not as easy to create as you might think.

Here are 5 reasons creating link bait might just be the biggest waste of your time.

  1. You think keywords aren’t necessary – Content is searchable. Even link bait. You must think about how your website visitors are going to find your content before you decide to publish it. What will make them think your article is worth a link? If it isn’t the keywords and it isn’t the way your content is written, then what is it?
  2. Link bait isn’t a magic carpet ride – No link bait is ever just created and published without a plan. If you’re too lazy to plan your content, how it will be written, what it will look like, what graphics will accompany it, etc., then there’s no use in creating it.
  3. You think it will promote itself – Even link bait needs to be promoted. Will you push it out with social media? Video marketing? Your blog? Will you share it with high profile bloggers in your niche? Include your promotional efforts in your plan for your link bait.
  4. You expect too much too fast – You can’t predict how many people will link to your content and when. You can write it, you can publish it, and you can promote it. The rest is up to everyone else. Focus on what you can control.
  5. You think quality doesn’t count – All link bait is based on quality. If you don’t think that’s true, then you shouldn’t be trying to create link bait. No one is going to link to content that doesn’t provide value.

Link bait is more than just some fancy SEO trick. It’s a content strategy. Build your strategy on sound marketing principles, not crazy viral hype.

Everyone these days wants to go viral. They’d give their left arm (and probably a leg too) to see their content hit the viral craze meter boiling point. If you’re anything like me, you’d definitely like to see your content shake the virtual money tree. So how do do it?

SiteProNews has a great article about viral marketing. It tells you the 7 techniques that work to make content go viral (however, I’d say there are more than 7). Here are those 7 techniques, just in case your wondering:

  • Videos
  • Social media
  • Articles
  • Tweet/Retweet button
  • >Share widget
  • E-books
  • Newsletters

The beautiful thing is, all of these techniques work. And while the article is a good article, what it fails to do is teach you how to go viral using these techniques.

The purpose of this blog post is not to give you a step-by-step plan for your viral marketing efforts. Rather, what I’d like to do is to give you the very basis of viral marketing itself. Each of these techniques will work for the right kind of content. But what do you have to do before you start your viral marketing campaign? That’s what I’m about to tell you.

In a word, the one thing you have to do before any content can go viral is to make your content incredibly awesome. Bad content won’t go viral. Mediocre content won’t go viral. Good content might, but it isn’t likely. Great content, well, maybe it will go viral – on a good day. But there is a ton of great content online that hasn’t gone viral. What you really need is out-of-this-world awesome content. If you hit a home run on the creation part, then your content can’t help but go viral. That is, once you put it out there.

Twitter is one of the most interesting and powerful tools on the Internet. It’s real simple really. You type in 140 character messages and your followers respond. Or not. But, like anything, it can be used for good or bad.

One user decided to play a hoax and tweeted “RIP Jackie Chan.” The viral response was spectacular.

Tzvi Balbin, using Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point philosophy, explains how this happened. I think he’s stretching it by saying that all the Twitterers who retweeted the message are salesmen, but I agree with his analysis overall. He even manages to pull in Rudy Giuliani to make his point.

When it comes to viral marketing, Twitter is an impressive tool. One simple message sent to the right person at the right time can lead to a domino effect. Get your message in front of the connectors within your niche and if they like it you can bet a large percentage of their audience will like it too. Viral marketing almost always involves reaching the most influential people to help you spread your message.

@forumn00b piggybacked on the authority of @tweetmeme, a Twitter account with more than 60,000 followers. Of course, popularity itself is not an indicator of viral success. Your message has to be the right message for the audience. If you do it right, viral marketing can set off a social media frenzy. That’s what you’re looking for.

Viral marketing is something that everyone wants, but few people really know what it means. It’s a bit of a fancy word. We know it when we see it, but we’re not sure how to go about accomplishing it for ourselves. A WebProNews article can shed a little light on it.

Jonah Peretti describes viral marketing in real simple terms:

Simply, stuff that has the best opportunity to spread is stuff that people want to share with others.

So the essence of viral marketing is really finding something that appeals to a lot of different people. If one person likes it, you’ve got one fan. If a thousand people like it, it’s viral material. Take that to the hundred thousand person level and you’ve got viral content on the go.

How do you create content that goes viral? Is it planned or does it just happen? There are examples of both kinds of content, but I think the best kind of viral marketing is planned.

Your content must possess three qualities if you want it to go viral. It must:

  1. Appeal to a large number of people
  2. Be published and in a format that is easy to share
  3. Be a positive representation of your company or brand

With those three qualities, your content has the potential to go viral. Think about what your audience likes. Give it to them. Then the promote the Dickens out of it.

Mobile marketing is not something we talk about much on this blog, but I would like to address an emerging opportunity for small business owners. iPhone apps.

It seems that everyone is interested in having their iPhone app now. There’s a good reason for this. iPhones are popular, almost everyone has one, and everyone who has one is tuned in through apps. In the future, iPhone apps are going to be the way many people log onto the Internet for routine business.

Think about this.

  • If you own a book store, you could have an iPhone app that lets people put a book on hold – right through their iPhone.
  • If you are the owner of an auto parts store, you could let people order their car parts through their iPhone, and even schedule delivery.
  • Own a restaurant? Put your menu into an iPhone and take carry-out orders.
  • Own a bowling alley? You could have an iPhone app that allows your customers to bowl on their phones, and when they’re not iPhone bowling they can reserve their lanes.
  • A gardener can have an iPhone app that reports soil conditions based on weather, time of year, etc.

There’s really no limit to what you can do with an iPhone app. If you have an imagination you can come up with all sorts of things. The time for small businesses to take advantage of marketing and customer service through iPhone apps has come. Are you ready?

Viral marketing is a strategy that many business owners look at then shy away from. It is a difficult strategy and as we have mentioned frequently here, there are more failed attempts than successful. While it is an online phenomenon that you are hoping to achieve, that doesn’t mean there aren’t real world opportunities that you could take advantage of.

Consider what it is that makes a marketing strategy go viral. In simple terms, it is a snowballing process where each recipient passes it on to two or more of their friends. This could be an image, a video, or a page of written text. The concept is the same no matter the material. What is important is that it is real people who are the recipients, and where do you find ‘real’ people? In the real world!

Offline marketing can be cost effective, especially when compared to click through rates of banner and search advertising.  The cost of a thousand pamphlets can be similar to the cost of a thousand ad impressions, yet conversion rates can be far higher.  The key to creating a viral marketing campaign using real world marketing remains the same – the material must be worthy. There has to be value to everyone along the chain.

By encouraging others to first go online to experience your campaign and, secondly, to have them send the details to others can be hard. It can also be as simple as offering a free sample or trial. Online marketing is not restricted to the online world. Viral marketing is certainly not restricted to the online world. Have a look around and see whether or not there are real world opportunities to market your business. You never know, you may actually be introducing people to a new experience, not just dealing with you online, but doing business online for the first time – make it memorable for them.

Viral marketing is a tough business and there are more failed viral marketing programs out there than successful ones. To be successful, viral marketing relies on individuals promoting on your behalf. If you can identify key influencers in your niche then your task could be made much easier.

Rather than trying to market to the world at large, you can target those who have influence in your niche. By winning their support (and that is not always an easy task), they will start to promote on your behalf. Because they have some influence in your niche, others will listen and often follow.

Influencer marketing is not new. Look at some of the major fast food outlets. They target youngsters for two reasons. One – they influence moms and dads when it comes to buying fast foods, and two, if you can win them over when they are young, you have them for life. We are interested in the first reason, they influence their parents.

There are many professionals who have significant influence. Teachers and education; food writers and restaurants; and entertainment critics and the entertainment industry are just a few that stand out. They are not the only ones, of course. You can find on niche sites small groups that others often defer to – or look to for advice. In non-professional circles, the women in a man’s life may well influence him in his purchases so the women become the marketing target rather than the man (this is an old tactic that has been around for decades).

If you are looking at a viral marketing campaign, stop and consider who the key influencers are in your niche. Can you influence them? Can you develop a relationship with them first that can then be used at a later date to promote your campaign? If you can develop a relationship then you may find a viral marketing campaign much easier. Of course, you still need to have the right marketing materials.

Viral marketing is a concept that is hard to pin down. Just what is it?

In a word, viral marketing is any type of marketing that catches on and gets people talking about you. When an idea spreads, either spontaneously or as a part of a planned effort, then it is said to have gone viral. That can happen in a variety of media.

Videos, for instance, can go viral in a number of ways but one very popular way that they often catch on and take a life of their own is through the popular video channel YouTube. Articles can go viral through one of many e-zine directories or on a content website. Photos can go viral at places like Flickr and DeviantArt.

What medium are you using? It helps to know what you have to offer in order to present it to the right people in hopes that it might go viral. Your blog can viral if you get it in front of the right eyes. One blog post can go viral if the right people see it and share it. The key is to get it in front of the right people.

So how do you do that?

One mistake that marketers often make is to present their material to all of their friends hoping that their friends will share it and then their friends will share it and so on and so on. But a better way to ensure that your content goes viral is to present it to half a dozen influencers. These are people on social networks like Facebook and Twitter who have thousands of followers. A single tweet or Facebook update can often lead to thousands of hits to your website in minutes if the right influencer likes it.

But simply submitting your link or content to an influencer isn’t enough. You should study the influencers you want to target and learn what they like. Develop a relationship with them. Interact with them and get to know them as a person, let them get to know you.

People, even influencers, respond better to people they know than to random strangers. Get to know the right people and your content will stand a better chance at going viral.