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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Reciprocal Consulting has been an advocate of video marketing for years. There are good reasons why, and the following statistics (borrowed from this article on video marketing) illustrate some of those reasons:

  • Over 40% of consumers watch videos on a weekly basis.
  • Viral video marketing campaigns increase clickthrough rates by 750%.
  • Product videos sell 45% more products.
  • YouTube is considered the second biggest search engine online; it may someday surpass Google as the No. 1 search engine.

Video marketing is already hot. It’s about to get hotter. As companies figure out how to provide cheap videos that drive traffic to any website, you can bet that more and more videos will be uploaded to sites like YouTube and Vimeo.

Here are our top three tips for helping you produce a world class video that will market your products and services.

  • Make your video creative. Give it something to make it stand out. With billions of videos being uploaded to YouTube every day, competition is stiff – and it’s going to get stiffer.
  • Use testimonials, but make them real. Don’t stage your testimonials or use fake testimonies with actors. Use real customers who are excited about your products and services. Testimonials are powerful mareketing tools.
  • Keep it real. Be genuine and be yourself. People will see through any veneers you create so make your video a true reflection of who you are.

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.

Most people have probably heard of the recent online phenomena surrounding Ted Williams. He was a homeless individual whom someone decided had a great voice. They made a short video and posted it to YouTube. From there, it went viral, and suddenly Ted Williams became one of the most popular men in the US – at least, for a short period of time.

Ted was flown around the country, interviewed by the best, including Dr Phil. He even had large sums of money thrown at him to do advertising voice overs. A true rags to riches story. Unfortunately, he was detained by police days later for being drunk and disturbing the peace. The problem was, much of his story centered on him being a reformed alcoholic. Now, he is yesterday’s news and no one want to know him.

It’s not our role to comment on the rights or wrongs of what happened to Ted Williams. Rather, it provides a very telling lesson on the difficulties of online reputation management. Consider how your business would have fared if a similar situation arose.

Rather than Ted Williams’ voice being the draw card, it was a video of your product in action. Everyone loves the video, the product looks great, and suddenly sales are booming. You have achieved every marketer’s dream, a viral marketing campaign.

But what happens if, a week or two later, someone posts a comment about how your product started a fire, or some similar catastrophic situation. Your reputation will suddenly go down hill, fast. Your video will sit unwanted, and your sales will drop altogether. Ted Williams, despite everything that has happened, still has that perfect on-air voice. Your product may be totally harmless, the fire or event being caused by misuse rather than poor quality.

The final result is still the same – like Ted Williams, the Internet skyrocketed your product to the starry heights – just as quickly, the Internet brought your product, and your business, back down to earth with a grinding thud. Online reputation management can be tough, especially in situations that involve viral campaigns.

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.

One of the most misunderstood Internet marketing strategies is viral marketing. The fact is, it’s not really an Internet marketing strategy. It’s been around a lot longer than the Internet. But the Internet does take it to the next level and make it more powerful.

Simply defined, viral marketing is any kind of marketing that gets other people talking about your brand and sharing with their friends on a large scale. That can be done online or off line.

Off line viral marketing usually begins with a customer experiencing a product or service. Then that customer goes out and tells a handful of other people – let’s say 10 – about the kind of service or quality experienced at your business. Some of those 10 people – let’s say half – go and check it out for themselves. Each of them likes it in turn. They go out and tell 10-12 of their friends each and a handful of them go into your store to experience the product or service. Repeat that 100 or 1,000 times and we have off line viral marketing.

The same phenomenon works online as well. The difference is that people are now more likely to talk about you to their online friends – in chat rooms, forums, on blogs, and through interaction on social networks.

Viral marketing is nothing new, but it sure is powerful.

Viral marketing – is it just for online marketers or can it take place off line as well?

Viral marketing is just another name for word of mouth. It can manifest itself in any number of ways, online or off line. For instance, online viral marketing can occur when a video grows popular because many people have bookmarked it or shared it with their friends. Maybe they sent the link by e-mail or they bookmarked it on their favorite social bookmarking site. Perhaps they favorited it on YouTube or shared the link on Twitter or Facebook. The fact that a lot of people shared the video in a short period of time means the video has gone “viral”.

This phenomenon takes place off line in the same way. Suppose you open up an ice cream shop in your neighborhood. On your first day of business you get only 10 customers. But all 10 of those customers tell five friends, each of whom visit your store the next day.

That’s 50 customers on day 2. But what if those 5 customers told 10 of their friends about your ice cream shop? They e-mailed their friends, called them on the phone, talked to them at church or school. Wherever they bumped into their friends, you were mentioned.

Now you have 510 people who know about your ice cream shop. On day three suppose that half of your first day customers came back to visit you again. And suppose 20% of your second day customers returned. Furthermore, suppose that half of the people they told about your shop came in as well. On day 3 of your shop you’d have 265 customers. Now you’re really growing!

Now, suppose those customers each told 5 of their friends about you. And they all came into your ice cream shop some time over the seven days. Getting the picture yet?

Viral marketing can, and often does, take place off line as well as online. The key is to provide a remarkable service, something that people will talk about. If you can do that then you’ll go viral, whether you are online or off line.

StumbleUpon is a social media service that allows web users an opportunity to show their like for a web page by “thumbing” it up or to show their dislike by “thumbing” it down. The service has a reputation for two things:

  • Sending lots of traffic to many websites
  • Being responsible for high bounce rates and low conversion rates

Many webmasters use that second point to justify not using StumbleUpon at all, but that is a msitake. It is true that conversion rates are low and bounce rates are high as many people will stumble a site sent to them by a friend then immediately leave without really reading what they stumbled. Of course, users on other social media sites do the same thing.

But it is possible to go viral on StumbleUpon. And when you do you’ll be really excited that you got some Stumble notoriety.

If you do the following three things on StumbleUpon you’ll greatly increase your chances of going viral and getting a reaction from your Stumble traffic.

  1. Write a killer headline. Content is good, but no matter how well written and compelling your content is, if your headline doesn’t grab people’s attention then they will never read your content. Make your headline outstanding.
  2. Get rid of the popups. Most people don’t like them and if your site is full of popup advertising and other annoying web pests then Stumblers will not give it a thumbs up.
  3. Be active. Don’t just stumble your own content. Be active in stumbling the content of your friends and other users. Use the StumbleUpon toolbar to send a note to your most trusted friends about a page you want stumbled. Let someone else be the discoverer. If you thumbs up your own content and that’s all you do then you could get banned.

Going viral on StumbleUpon is not as hard as it seems. It is possible, but you’ve got to have great content that starts with a great headline and a clean site free of annoying ads.

It is generally recognized that Hotmail was the first successful viral marketer. Started in 1996 by two visionaries of Internet marketing, the plan was simply to provide free e-mail addresses to anyone who wanted them. Whenever someone signed up for an account and began sending e-mails there was a message at the bottom of the e-mail inviting the recipient to get a free e-mail address. The more people who used the service the more Hotmail received free advertising and the more people signed up to use the service. It was an overnight phenomenon.

Hotmail was also followed by other copycat services – free web-based e-mail services. And that was really the beginning of viral marketing. After Hotmail, other marketers began to see opportunities to promote themselves for free or to get other people to promote their offerings for free.

Viral marketing works on that principle. Get others to do your marketing for you and if it is successful then an idea can take off and spread virally in a very short period of time.

Hotmail may have been first, but there are other ideas that have gone viral since Hotmail. YouTube has been instrumental in seeing certain videos spread rapidly. Other social networks like Digg, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have also done well in helping ideas to spread. And, of course, e-mail is a viral marketing mainstay.

No matter the medium, if you have a hot idea and you can get that idea to catch on then you can have a viral marketing sensation.

Facebook has caught a lot of attention in the last year or so. Rivaling Google in terms of traffic, it has become a sort of powerhouse on its own for sending traffic to websites and for online marketing in general. Of course, it can be – and has been – used as its own viral marketing tool. But there is one other aspect to Facebook that has a lot of potential when it comes to viral marketing.

I’m talking about Facebook Apps.

You’ve seen them. Your friends send you the requests for kisses on the cheek, vampire bats and reading naked in the dark. They’re called apps and despite their silliness, they can be used for marketing your small business.

If you develop a really useful Facebook app then it will receive a lot of downloads and get a lot of usage. Every time someone uses your app they’ll be marketing your company.

To develop your own Facebook app you’ll need to get a developer’s API and go to work. Try to create an app that is somehow related to your business or something that is useful to your target audience. If your audience likes your app and finds it useful in some way then they’ll share it with their friends and you’ll get more downloads. As a result, you’ll get more traffic to your Facebook fan page and your web property.

Can all this result in viral activity? Yes, it sure can. And some companies are already doing it. You can too.

According to WebProNews, more Americans are connecting with their neighbors and other locals over the Internet. This is a pretty significant development and could mean that local Internet marketing is about to get a huge boost. That could be both good and bad.

Among the things that could happen locally are:

  • An increase in spam
  • A greater potential for more viral marketing campaigns
  • A boom in local search engine marketing
  • More social media involvement at the local level

And who knows the potential for any of these?

On the viral marketing front, anything that catches on locally and seems to move on its own without much effort could become viral in seconds. Through Facebook, Twitter, SMS or local forums and community websites, content could go viral just with a simple nudge. But local viral marketing campaigns still must follow the same rules and principles as all other viral campaigns. On that we can rely.

At one time e-books were a great viral marketing tool. But that was a bit of a primitive time. It’s like the Stone Age now. Cool tools, but the hammers we use now do a lot better pounding.

Unfortunately, e-books have not arrived. But they’re not exactly in the Stone Age either. There is a transition.

Thanks to two developments in the e-book publishing industry – the iPad and the Kindle – there is a revitalized interest in e-books. But it seem like the big frustration for consumers is there isn’t one standard. That makes it difficult to get a viral marketing effect with an e-book.

Not impossible. Just difficult. There is still a possibility that an e-book can go viral, but if it does so it will have to go viral in one of three accepted formats:

  • Kindle
  • iPad
  • PDF

Right now, I’d say e-books are more likely to go viral if they are in PDF format. But you can create a mini-viral effect with either Kindle or iPad versions of your e-book. But the most important thing about e-books going viral is you have to have great content. Mediocre just won’t cut it.

Every day almost you hear about a successful viral marketing campaign. Many times they just happen. They’re not planned. And sometimes it isn’t even something that is marketed. It’s just a video or an article that becomes popular for some reason. It’s like serendipity.

But can you plan a viral marketing campaign? Are those things plannable?

Well, every marketer would like to think so. And, in truth, yes, you can plan a viral marketing campaign. But planning something and seeing it through to completion are two different things. Sometimes the plan just doesn’t work out.

So what’s it take to make a viral marketing plan work? It takes more than a plan. I guarantee you that.

However, it starts with a plan. If you don’t plan for the viral marketing campaign – and I mean every detail down to where you intend to submit your content and who your target audience is – then you might as well plan for it to fail. You can’t leave it to happenstance. Or serendipity.

That said, don’t expect your viral marketing campaign to succeed just because you planned it. You have to also monitor your efforts, and your results.

When you’re ready to build a viral marketing campaign and see it through to completion, find a viral marketing expert to guide you through the maze.

With all the talk about Facebook growing into the biggest website online and developing into a good social media marketing vehicle for businesses (but only if you get a Facebook fan page), you’d think it’s the best thing since green tea. Maybe it is. But will make your marketing campaign go viral?

Let’s just lay one thing out on the table right now. Any social website could make your marketing campaign go viral, but not if you don’t have the right stuff. So what’s the right stuff?

Your content has to have mass appeal. If you serve a very niche market and your content appeals to that niche market well, but not so well to any other market then your content won’t go viral. Even on Facebook. Simply being on the most trafficked website online is not enough to make your content go viral.

Another thing you need is to get your content in front of the right people. Simply sharing your content with ten friends hoping they will push your content to the top of the viral chain isn’t going to cut it. You need to get your content in front of the Facebook movers and shakers. Until you do that, it won’t go viral.

That’s not to say that you should spam the people with the most friends. But you might send them a private message asking if they’ll take a look at your content and share it if they like it.

Viral marketing is about making the right friends in the right places and sharing the right stuff. You can do that on Facebook or anywhere there might be people who will really dig what you have to offer.