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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.

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