What is Viral Marketing?

Key on keyboard blog post

It's time to spread the word, not about what I had for dinner, or why I think my favourite football team failed to beat the bookies favourite for relegation, but because a Gorilla is playing a set of drums to the sound of Phil Collins, in order to promote a bar of chocolate!

The uniqueness (or random nature) of Cadbury's Gorilla Drumming campaign clearly appealed to the public, given that it increased sales of the product in question. But it's success in 2007 can also be attributed to the thousands who shared the advert on Social Media websites, especially YouTube, and the TV and Radio Channels that turned the production into a story.

This is a clear example of Viral Marketing, but what does this term mean? Basically, it describes any strategy used by companies and agencies that encourages the public to share information about a service, product or organisation. Examples could include polls, cryptic e-mails or even simple word of mouth, but definitely not a trojan. It is inevitable though that a social networking website will be used in some capacity, simply because it's easy to share to others and the number of active users continues to rise. In the UK at last count for example, there are now over 33 million Facebook users, and 10 million plus Twitter accounts.

Other tactics that could be used might include competitions, for instance a free £10 bet from a bookmakers, online games or even a publicity stunt that draws in the crowds. But Viral Marketing doesn't always have to be as comical as fancy dress at a darts tournament. I suspect we're all now used to the crescendo when one of the UK's most prominent retailers releases its Christmas advert. Comments on my social media accounts for the 2012 extravaganza included 'That advert brought a tear to my eye' and 'simply magical.'

Retailers and organisations can easily miss the mark with this type of campaign though. What if an advert or game offends an individual or group, to the extent that they spread negative messages, write a blog, or even complain to a government agency. Also, what if too many e-mails are sent, and as a result potential customers withdraw their addresses from a subscription list. Yes it's true that negative publicity can bring positive results, such as when the cat was kicked by the blind footballer, but that was an unrealistic scenario, at least I think it is...

To conclude, Viral Marketing is one of a number of ways to improve brand awareness. But it's not a new phenomenon, you've probably been an active member for your entire life.

- By Alex Blakey, Social Media Content Assistant

Editor - 

Kane is the Managing Director of Giraffe Social Media. His primary focus is Finance and Operations Management, that's when he isn't watching clips from The Office on YouTube anyway. Google+ Profile

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