A successful viral marketing campaign can increase exposure for your company and product while increasing the number of links to your site. One of the hardest parts is coming up with the idea. Let's explore a few different ways to develop those ideas.
Demographics: Gathering Points
Where do your customers congregate on the Web? Just as in real life, people of similar demographics tend to gather in similar places. Of course, there's always an exception.
Put together a list of sites that fit your customers' demographics. Then research what the most popular items were for the past year. This could be anything, including specific topics, photo collections, cartoons, interviews, tools, interactive games, and contests. It all depends on your customers taste.
After all, what's most popular to a teenage gamer probably won't be the most popular to a retired executive traveling the world. Remember, it's not the mass appeal and size of a viral campaign that matters -- it's the final results.
Once this list has been compiled, have a group meeting to brainstorm ways to put a spin on one of those ideas for your viral campaign.
Research Social Media Sites
I'm not a fan of reinventing the wheel. Save time and resources by having someone research several social media sites, such as YouTube and StumbleUpon, to discover what the big success stories were for industries related to yours. Then put a spin on it to tailor it to your industry.
Sell women's clothing? Look at jewelry or cosmetics. Sell merchant account services? Find out what the business loan sites are doing. Represent a hotel or resort? Uncover tour operator strategies. Or examine what hotels are doing in different geographic areas.
Fun with Customers
For the daring and progressive companies, create a cartoon or video poking fun at customers. Everyone loves a good laugh and it's one of the most successful forms of viral marketing. Find out what makes your clients unique. Something they'll be able to laugh about without getting offended.
Need something more conservative? Turn it around and make fun of your industry with a parody.
Is your company bold and ambitious? Perhaps you're a start-up company trying to get noticed.
Create a contest for others to develop a viral campaign for your company. This can be done in a couple different formats depending on your company's needs and appetite for risk.
It could be as simple as them coming up with the idea, then you implementing it. Or the contest can be for them to launch a full campaign. The one with the greatest success wins (make sure to have specific metrics to judge who wins).
Spend the initial time thinking through your viral marketing idea. Sometimes the hardest part is coming up with the idea. The extra time spent will help ensure it has a better chance of going viral.
Finally, make sure your company has the resources to pull it off. This includes staff, time, and financial resources. Too often, companies start a campaign only to realize they don't have the internal resources to make it happen.
Justilien Gaspard is off this week. This column was originally published on Feb 19, 2009.