(This is a three part series of blogs, where I’ll discuss whatever I gather about Viral loop, Viral Marketing, Social Media etc. I would like to share your observations and ideas about the same. The part1 follows here. Next week, Part2 will follow and then Part3)
Have you ever forwarded a mail to all in your address book? Have you ever shared a link you like with your friend? Are you on Facebook? Or Orkut? Or MySpace? Have you ever bid on eBay? Posted a video, viewed or downloaded it from YouTube?
If yes, you are spreading a viral my friend! Yes, and without even knowing it you have become a part of a loop that keeps on expanding exponentially.
What exactly is a viral loop? A viral loop is nothing but a self replicating loop of objects or phenomenon. A process, that has touched new heights with the invasion of internet in our lives. But by no means is the concept of a viral new to the marketing world. Avon, a US based cosmetics, perfume and toy selling company, has long deployed the process of direct marketing.
I still remember, visiting a common friend’s place with my cousin. Her mom used to sell AVON products. Being a house wife this was a source of additional income and also some fun. How she flaunted the products and its advantages, and not just that. She also told us about the commission she gets from selling the products and how easily anyone can become a subscriber. Soon after, I found my cousin selling off AVON products in her friend circle. Many of her friends followed suit. She had become a part of a viral and was now starting a loop of her own.
Avon’s strategy of direct marketing is not unique. Tupperware deployed this method to earn millions, way back in 1940’s. Amway, another cosmetics and domestic products company, today has a long chain of buyers and sellers, which continues to expand.
The best form of marketing still remains the “word of mouth” process. If you hear a friend of yours praising a product, if nothing, you’ll definitely want to check out on it. And what if you like it? You might end up buying it. You may even refer it to another friend of yours. Personally, before buying a product I do like to consult a few of my acquaintances, and I am sure many of you also do the same. Why would I trust a company’s words? It’s their product; they are bound to praise it. But, if my friend tells me something good about a product, I will definitely give it more thought.
What if the company decides to pay a sum to this friend of mine? He would refer this product more often, and not just to a handful of people. He has bought the product, he knows it’s good, and he can make money out of that knowledge. This will trigger up the sales more. The more people join the loop, the more successful a product will be.
With internet, all this has become far easier, and faster. Not just because it’s faster to communicate, but also because it has a global impact. Greater the number of audience you can cater to, vaster the possibilities are.
The internet boom, was itself a result of viral. And today, the web is the stage for various businesses, based on theviral loop. From Mosaic to Hotmail to ebay to Facebook; web businesses have fed and flourished on this loop.
Social Media and the Viral Loop:
We humans are social lots. Ever since the human evolution began, he craved for a group. We always tend to develop a group around us, wherever we are.
The viral feeds on this very nature of ours. Ever wonder, if you were the only member of Facebook, Twitter or Flickr. How long will you last? Why would you put up status updates, if nobody knows about it? Why would you share photos if no one sees them or comments on them? What would be the point of your tweets? Why would you put up a product for sale on eBay, if there are no bidders?
The Viral is designed keeping these very things in mind. Any such site that can capture the right pulse is bound to grow. Here, what is good is decided by us.
I had not heard about Facebook, until one day a friend of mine sent me a request to join up. She had some good words to say about it. Once registered, I was hooked on it. I spent hours searching for my old friends on the network. If I could not find them, I would in turn send then the join up request. Back then, my purpose was to connect with my long lost friends. Also, to connect easily to my distant friends. Soon, emails were a thing of past, I knew what my friends’ mood was, what were they doing, just by reading a few lines of their status updates. I had by now developed a big network of friends, ex colleagues, relatives etc, and had helped spread the viral to a lot greater number, who in turn had also done the same.
But this was not all. It had a great potential for other businesses too. A company could easily set up their pages on any such social networking sites, and allow people to follow them. This was a great way to make people feel some sort of connection with the product, as they could have their say on any updates on the product. There are many other ways too to utilize these social networks. Putting up an ad link is another way to utilize the tremendous traffic on these sites.
Recent example would be the success of Zynga. Farmville, had become quite a rage amongst my Facebook buddies. Each day, I would receive at least 6-7 neighbour request. They utilized a simple tactics, of inviting your friends to create their own farm, to expand yours. People already addicted to the game would send request to almost anyone, who in turn would invite many others. Hence the game spread like a fire. Later however, too many bugs and ultimate saturation, put a brake to the growth rate.
The social networking sites are stackable. Each can be layered on top of another. If I come across a good article, I can Digg it and it can automatically share this with my twitter pals or Facebook buddies. If I stumble upon a great site I can bookmark it on De:licious for future reference. All my followers on de:licious can share this bookmarked page, they can dig it, mash it, tweet it, whatever they like. I can upload my pictures on Flickr, videos on YouTube, and share the link through any of my social networks.
(Part2: Viral Marketing, Viral Network and Social Media)