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» Bill Darton
St. Catharines, Ontario
In the offline world, viral marketing means that you are spreading the word about your product or service, and the rumors about it are catching and moving fast, like wildfire or, actually, more like a virus that has lost control. In this case, however, a marketer has full control of the situation, because all that he needs to do is urge his boss to release the product or service in order to satisfy the curiosity of the target market. This can be the same disadvantage that makes viral marketing so dangerous: customers are so inundated with advertising messages and promises, so that if the product or service fails to live up to expectations, the company that produced it just might fall into ruin.
In the online arena, viral marketing can be even more dangerous, in fact, it can work extremely well, or backfire and spin out of control. This is because there are many chances for viral marketing to take place online. All that viral marketing needs is a short message, a set of recipients, and a mode of delivery. A short message can be easy to come by for companies or businesses that know their products and services well. A set of recipients can also be obtained fairly quickly from directories or lists of contact details of prospective customers. It is the mode of delivery that makes viral marketing so easy online.
There are actually many modes of delivery online that can make viral marketing spread even faster than it would offline. Because of the paradigm of Web 2.0, more and more people are finding their way online and finding it easier to express themselves in the online arena. This means that many people will have their own websites, a means to react to entries on the website or blog that the person has produced, and membership in various social networks where friends can come together to discuss their favorite topics and ways to indulge their interests. If word gets out on a blog or social network about a great product, service, or website, the word spreads quickly through the web of people and online personas, and viral marketing is born.
So what does this mean for your website? It means that there are many ways for your website to succeed online only if you know how to exploit the different ways that Web 2.0 can spread the word on your website, products, and services. You can start by maintaining a blog, and then being a member of forums and online groups at the same time. Your membership will allow you to post your opinions, help other members out with their problems, offer tips, and give advice. Once you have sealed your reputation, you can then direct people to your blog, where they can make comments and get a chance to tell other people about your products, services, and website.
Make sure, however, that your products and services really do live up to expectations, and that you update your website regularly. Once viral marketing gets started, it can be difficult to control. Of course you will not be able to please everybody, but at least you know the techniques to employ when you want to try.
These are only a few aspects of viral marketing that you may want to consider. For more information, read about Web 2.0 and the importance of social networks. Once you get into these networks, it will be easier for you to market your website, products, or services.