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One Virus You Want To Catch Jumping On the Viral Marketing Bandwagon

Viral marketing has consumed the business world. Now, it seems everyone and their brother has integrated some aspect of viral marketing into their marketing strategy. So what exactly is viral marketing, how can you make it work for you, and how can small businesses jump on the bandwagon and still stay on budget? What exactly is viral marketing? According to the experts at Web Marketing Today, "Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence." Viral marketing comes in many shapes and sizes.

For example, videos on YouTube are shared by millions every day. Articles, reports, and books are shared and emails are forwarded. Content, whether it is audio, video, or written content, is one of the most powerful viral marketing tools. Write an article with tips that make peoples' lives better, create a video demonstration, or publish a podcast, they're all viral.

One reader or listener shares your content with another, who then shares it with two other people who then share it with two more people and your audience grows and expands. As your audience grows, your awareness broadens, and your bottom line grows too. How can you make viral marketing work for you? The very first rule of viral marketing is to take a good look at your target audience. Make a thorough study and analysis of where they spend their time and what they spend their time doing.

For example, PeerFlix created a low cost game where the objective was to take pictures of celebrities misbehaving. The game was seeded or promoted on gaming sites and entertainment blogs, places where their target audience visited, and within 90 days there were more than 2 million unique visits to the game site and 5% of users continued onto the main website. So the key isn't just what form of viral marketing you use, it is how you get the word out.

Here are a few other rules of thumb to keep in mind. The viral marketing tool must be valuable or provide value. This is one of the reasons content works so well.

It's easy to provide value in the form of a how to, tips, or even for entertainment. The game used in the earlier example provided entertainment value. It must be easy to use and easy to access.

Online you have a prospect's attention for about 20 seconds. In those 20 seconds they make a decision about whether or not they're going to continue to pay attention. For example, consider your behavior when you watch a YouTube video. It's easy to use because all you have to do is click on a video and watch it.

The videos themselves are easy to access because they're all available and searchable on a single webpage. The same holds true for the game. Accessing the game was as easy as typing a URL into your browser and playing the game was simple and fun. If people have to jump through hoops to access your viral medium, they will leave. How can small businesses jump on the bandwagon and still stay on budget? Viral marketing doesn't have to be expensive. Valuable content can be as simple as a tips newsletter emailed weekly or monthly to your customer list.

Audio and video can be created with open source software and uploaded onto your website for free. Business owners can interview experts and share those interviews with their prospects and visitors as a free download to share and pass along. Ask yourself what you can offer that is valuable, easy to share, and is easy to seed or promote where your target audience hangs out online.

Joan Finholt is a retired teacher who is co-owner of Bound and Determined Books. She enjoys using the internet to market the business. Visit her site at:

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