Let's Go Viral

In my mind, Viral Marketing and Link Love are fraternal twins, so I hope you don’t mind if I speak primarily about Viral Marketing today, with the understanding that I believe it is subtly distinct and yet very similar to Link Love.

In case you haven’t noticed, viral Web marketing campaigns are hard. The difficulty with viral campaigns is that they work some of the weakest marketer muscles -- courage and persistence. Additionally challenging is the fact that you, as an individual marketer, are not the only one that must embrace these values. Both the agency and the client must be on board with taking risks and staying the course on a risky venture.

Viral Campaigns Are Rewarding

Scary, yes, but rewards can be significant. A successful viral Web marketing campaign can spin out for months and yield ongoing participation from online visitors. We know that people interacting with your marketing campaigns complete your most-wanted-responses at a significantly higher rate than those who simply watch your campaigns passively. Additionally, the monetary cost of a viral marketing campaign is much less than campaigns of similar reach using traditional media.

Aside from guts and gusto, the other reason most marketers and clients don’t get into this space is the fear of limited trackability. They all ask me, "What's my cost-per-acquisition, Sage?" Thanks to the dot-bomb era, most clients are beyond the idea of buying branding online – and good for them! But clients can try viral Web marketing without being naive about how they spend their online marketing budget.

Tracking Multiple Actions

The key is to start thinking outside the “single, most-wanted-response” box. Our Web sites must now cater to people in multiple phases within the buying cycle. We can no longer expect that our visitors will all take the same single action. And that means we need to track multiple actions of multiple audiences, assigning value to each of those actions.

Instead of attributing value only to sent contact forms or online purchases, imagine knowing the dollar value associated with:

  • Text message direction downloads to your store
  • MP3 informational downloads
  • Video message views
  • Competitor comparison guide views
  • Live instant message chats
  • Visits to product forum areas
  • Contributions to open testimonial areas

These are merely ideas off the top of my head. With some interactive brainstorming and digging into your stat program to isolate the behaviors of your prospects and clients, you could likely come up with many more highly relevant most-wanted-responses.

Making Your Web Site Interactive

If you are wondering whether your Web site has enough most-wanted-responses and interactions for every user, try this exercise:

  1. List the current most-wanted-responses for your Web site. Do you have more than three?

  2. Ask yourself, “If I were just starting to consider purchasing this product or service, is there anything I could interact with to learn more? Or does my site cater only to people who are ready to buy?”

  3. Would you spend a full 10 minutes or more on the site?

  4. Is reading the only activity on your Web site?

A huge part of Web 2.0 involves providing useful information and interactive tools in multiple formats to appeal to users in every phase of the buying cycle. And the great news is that all of these interactive elements are trackable, most-wanted-responses that have an actual dollar value.

About the author

Sage Lewis started his online marketing company, SageRock.com, in 1999 during a time when most Internet companies were failing. SageRock, however, has thrived under Lewis’ direction -- growing an average of 30% every year, while also being recognized as one of the top ten search engine optimization firms in the U.S. by a third-party resource in the industry, Marketing Sherpa.

Regarded as a web marketing expert, Lewis speaks regularly to business organizations like NEOSA and COSE, serves as a resource for press about industry trends, and teaches a recurring class on search engine optimization at Cleveland State University.

Lewis has created a unique company culture that values the individual employee and client, and he has built SageRock around one principle, “The concern, respect and empathy for the individual people we come in contact with at SageRock is our single core value.”

Lewis lives in Akron with his wife, Rocky, and son, Indiana.

Read more of Sage Lewis's columns at ClickZ.