Its been a while since I last blogged. Here is the continuation of the discussion on Viral loop and Marketing i started in my last blog.
What is Viral Marketing?
As we had discussed the self replicating nature of the Viral Loop in the Part1 of this article, we can easily say that Viral Marketing is a form of marketing that depends on the Viral loop.
What does that mean? This means that this form of marketing depends on pre-existing Social Networks to create awareness about their Brand or Products. If only we could imagine the Tupperware marketing strategy of “Tupperware Parties” that helped the company earn millions, in today’s scenario, imagine the impact it would have had.
The term viral marketing was popularized by Jeffery Rayport, through his article “The Virus of Marketing”, and how very appropriate the term is. The term was definitely inspired by the process of infecting one person through other.
The Virus of marketing doesn’t spread by chance. It has a proper thought out process behind it. The math of viral marketing is simple. If the Number of people an infected person can infect is greater than 1, the loop will grow exponentially. If it’s less than 1, it will never flourish. Hence the message that you are trying to send out to your target audience should be precise and clear. It should also be relevant. As mentioned in last article, here we, the end users decide what sells. If the product is not relevant, or doesn’t have the right elements to appeal, it won’t sell. No matter how you try to promote it.
What works best in a Viral marketing campaign is to let the loop do its work, and not try too hard to control it. If the content/product is good, it will sell. If you sit and start masterminding it, it will do more harm than good.
In Viral marketing, you need to keep in mind that, despite being the spreading virus, you need to appear like a host. Look at Facebook for example. We set up our accounts there, post pictures and updates, thinking of it as the host, helping us connect to our connections. What we fail to notice is that it is actually a virus spreading on our need/desire to connect to our near and remote acquaintances.
We can also take in account a few amazing catch phrases that act as perfect marketing tools. Nike’s “Just do it” campaign is a great example. No matter what they have spent in celebrity endorsements or TV campaigns, one thing that has always worked best was their catch phrase “Just Do It”. It had become a part of normal conversation. Every time we used the phrase, we were definitely reminded of Nike, and in a way we were spreading the word. Same goes for Adidas’ “Impossible is Nothing”. The phrase “nothing is impossible” was rephrased to “Impossible is Nothing” and the youth took it up readily. We were using the phrase everywhere to show off our attitude, while in reality we were endorsing a product.
Another noticeable trend is that the virus thrives on the people with bigger social communities with weaker links rather than people with fewer, stronger social connections. Just like the normal virus which attacks the weakest points of the immune system. Have we ever notice that on Face book we all have average of 135 people in our connections, but people we are more frequently in touch with probably do not exceed the count of 8. 80% of all the skype calls are made to only 2 people in our long contact lists. But we still send request to all the people we have ever known in our life, and would like to keep in touch with. If we only sent friend requests to those 8 people, or added only those 2 people on skype, the virus will never spread. Hence it’s always people with weaker but vaster social network who are the major contributors in the Viral marketing trend.
Viral Network & Social Media
A Viral Network, as should be clear by now, is a network spreading through the viral loop. The Tupperware ladies, the Amway and Avon buyer seller networks, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and numerous such sites and groups survive on this network. Any networks that can self replicate are Viral Network. Viral networks are highly scalable in nature. These networks also need to be decentralized. Any central control authority can affect the network effect to a great extent. The most recent example would be the decision taken by Wikipedia to control the contents, which led to the exit of numerous loyal contributors.
The Viral network follows the same Rule of 1. A viral network grows in spiral fashion, with many more spirals forking out of the existing ones. Though, not all spirals expand infinitesimally. There always is a saturation point, beyond which it cannot grow.
The Social Media networks are a result of these viral networks, and they follow all the rules of the viral. Once a viral is triggered, it keeps on doubling itself year after year. But ultimately a time comes when the viral reaches saturation point. Then how do these sites survive? It s an accepted fact, that 80% of the visitors to these sites, are only 20% percent people registered on these sites. These are the Loyalists or the Addicted visitors. Any social media follows this “80:20” rule.
But the expansive reach of social media is undeniable. Its huge audience has inspired many marketers to search new ways of promoting their products over these sites. Many credible brands have formed pages on these sites and encourage people to follow them. They also try to tap in this huge customer base by putting up ads and banners at several pages. These companies integrate a promotional mix of Direct marketing, advertising, personal selling, sales promotions and public relationship to capture the mass audience.
But how very effective is social media marketing in reality is still a topic for debate. It is a fact that the longer time we spend on a page the less likely we are to click on ads/banners. Moreover How many people actually follow a particular brand or company on these site? How many of them who once become participate in discussions or post comments? These sites have become “too popular”. People hardly go on an exploration spree now. They know exactly what they are up on the site for and do not look any further. Hence these promotional pages tend to lose their relevance as people move on to a newer, more interesting idea.
We have a mix of examples for the success rate of the sites on these social media networking sites. While Dell, Target and Starbucks actually managed to make it big, the likes of Volkswagon, Walmart and Nestle failed to make any impact.
The social media is also considered only as a Value Addition to traditional marketing schemes by many. But anything that has such a huge network following should be able to generate awesome revenue. The marketers are yet to find the best way to engage this vast audience base in a constructive way. But till then the debate continues.