The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Viral Marketing Campaigns

Ideas for Jumpstarting Your Viral Marketing CampaignsI’ve been having a lot of conversations about viral marketing recently and one question keeps popping up... “How do you give a viral campaign a jumpstart?” It’s a great question and one I wanted to address in this post. Although there’s not an exact formula for what type of content will go viral, you can definitely give your campaign a jumpstart by utilizing the following 5 techniques. And by the way, almost all of the techniques listed below cost nothing. That’s right…nada.

As a viral marketer, you definitely want to get your message in front of as many people as possible during your launch in order to see what sticks. Then, if you’ve crafted your campaign properly, your content has a chance to go viral. There are no guarantees with viral marketing, but your campaign just might have that hook… and if it does, then it could take on a life of its own! Let’s take a look at how to jumpstart your campaign…

5 Techniques for Giving Your Viral Campaign a Jolt:

1. Utilize Your In-House Email List
Worth its weight in gold, your in house email list can help you drive trusted visitors to your viral site extremely quickly. This is one of the easiest ways to get your content into the hands of people who already know you, have purchased from you, and hopefully receive ongoing email communications from you. The more people you can get to your campaign website during the launch, the greater chance you have of it going viral. Email marketing gives you the opportunity to clearly explain the campaign, provide details, visuals, and calls to action. And unlike some of the other methods listed below, email lets you craft your initial message. Now, what happens to that message after it starts getting passed around is a different story. :-) Last, email is inherently viral…you gave your list something to pass along (the actual email you sent!) Back to the launch…think about it, if you have an in-house list of 800,000 people and you have a click through rate of 4%, then you can start your campaign with 32,000 people hitting the site. That’s not a bad start.

2. Work with Your PR Agency or PR Department
You should definitely coordinate your viral campaign with your PR department or PR agency. You should have them craft several press releases to blast out during the first few weeks of the campaign. Chances are your PR department or agency has incredible contacts in your industry and can hopefully land you excellent coverage. In addition, using services like PRWeb can syndicate your releases across the web, helping you gain maximum exposure on blogs, forums, websites, etc. And, if you do start getting links on major blogs in the industry, they will pay off big time down the line for organic search. For example, maybe you end up landing several high Pagerank blogs linking to your campaign website. So don’t exclude PR!

3. Empower Your Employees
That’s right, your own employees can help you get the word out! This obviously has a greater effect if you are a larger organization with thousands of employees, but regardless, don’t overlook the power of your own people! You should craft an internal communication that gets people pumped up about the campaign. Make sure that the email you blast out to your employees contains all of the necessary information, including URL’s, visuals, a good breakdown of the campaign, etc. Let’s say you have 5,000 employees and they average 2.5 forwards per employee. Now you’ve got an additional 12,500 people to the site in a hurry. And since it was probably forwarded to friends at other companies, you have a chance that your link will get passed to many others. The link may go through several generations of forwarding. So don’t forget about your own employees. It’s fast, free, and can make an impact.

4. Social Media Marketing
Social Media sites are a great way to get the word out tens of thousands of people (or more). Websites like StumbleUpon, Mixx, Digg, Propeller, YouTube, and Twitter can provide a great way to gain serious exposure. There are many social media and social networking sites to choose from, and you need to find the ones that fit your specific style. Don’t be afraid, social media communities don’t bite…often. :-)

There is a catch…
you can’t just jump on these sites and expect to generate a lot of traffic. There’s a serious time commitment involved and you really need to provide value to the community in order to gain a following. I’ve seen quite a number of people hop on a social media site and post a link to their own website and then never come back. So, they didn’t really have any friends or contacts on the site, they didn’t provide any value to the community, and simply performed a “drive by submission”. I can guarantee you that their story received no votes and didn’t generate more than 10 visitors. On the flip side, if you do spend the time building a following, if you do participate and add value to the community, then you will reap great rewards (along with meeting lots of interesting people). So, don’t be a drive by submitter on any social media website. I’m telling you, it won’t work. :-) Now, let’s say you love YouTube, Twitter and StumbleUpon and have built up a nice following in each of these communities. You now can utilize these sites and leverage your following to get the word out about your campaign very quickly. And, many of the people using these social media sites have accounts at several other sites. Therefore, you might have one person repost your link on 3 or 4 other social media sites. Believe me when I tell you that you cannot overlook social media. If you do, then you are missing a HUGE opportunity.

5. Leverage Contacts in Your Industry
I’ll keep my last point brief, since it’s pretty simple! Don’t forget to reach out to everyone you know about your new viral campaign. This includes friends, family, people you’ve worked with in the past, bloggers you know, forum owners, the guy you met at SES last year, etc. You get the point. Just craft a professional email that briefly explains your campaign, provides the necessary links, visuals, and messaging. In my experience, this is a great way to get your site in front of people who are rooting for you. They may pass it along to 10 other people, or even better, they may forward it to their entire network of friends. And, if they blog, they may write an entire post about your campaign. This can open your site up to their entire readership. Then, maybe a few people that read their post end up writing about it on their own blogs. So on and so forth. Sounds fun, right?

Are You Ready to Go Viral?
So there you have it. 5 ways to give your viral marketing campaign a jolt. These 5 techniques are free, fast, and relatively easy to set up (other than the social media marketing piece). That can’t be started at the last minute... Re-read the section about social media marketing if you don’t understand what I mean. So, spend the time crafting some killer communications for your launch, leverage some of your strongest assets (that are right under your nose), and then use these 5 techniques to help launch your campaign.

So, have you used any other techniques to give your viral campaigns a jumpstart? If so, I’d love to hear about them.


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  • At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Matt L said…

    Great post. So true what you say about never knowing what goes viral and what doesn't. I'm just starting to get involved and want to start developing content to not be a drive by submitter!

  • At 9:47 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks Matt. There's definitely no formula for what goes viral and what doesn't. Actually, many of the viral campaigns people have heard of weren't the first tried by that company... You need to test out various campaigns to see what works... and you might be surprised what does!

    I'm glad to hear you won't be a drive by submitter! It really doesn't work... :)


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