Psst…Pass it On

18 02 2010

I have been involved in several conversations around viral marketing over the last few weeks. It is a term that gets defined different ways by different people. Everyone seems to agree on one thing — they need to start taking a closer look at its potential. Let’s face it, the opportunity to spread a message like “wild fire” can be a good thing as long as you are the one who frames the conversation.

According the the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, viral marketing is defined as  “creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often electronically or by email”. You know, the e-mail, image, game, photo, etc. that you were forwarded by a friend or family member — or maybe even a coworker — and you passed along because it was just too good to miss. 

Word of mouth marketing can be the most credible form.  Think about it, what has been the key influencer of health care decisions for years…recommendations from personal physicians or family/friends. Of course we see the numbers shaking out a bit differently these days as patients are “shopping” and becoming advocates from their own wellbeing. But where are they starting to turn now? They still get their information somewhere so why wouldn’t you want to be the source?

The important thing to remember is that viral is just one of many forms of word of mouth marketing to consider as you strive to arm individuals with interesting images, messages or interactions designed to get them talking on your behalf. Others include but are not limited to:

  • Buzz Marketing: Using high-profile entertainment or news to get people to talk about your brand
  • Community Marketing: Forming or supporting niche communities that are likely to share interests about the brand
  • Grassroots Marketing: Organizing and motivating volunteers to engage in personal or local outreach on your behalf
  • Evangelist Marketing: Cultivating evangelists, advocates, or volunteers who are encouraged to actively spread the word
  • Product Seeding: Placing the right product into the right hands at the right time and sharing key benefits/differential advantages
  • Influencer Marketing: Identifying key communities and opinion leaders who are likely to influence others
  • Cause Marketing: Supporting social causes to earn respect and support from people who feel strongly about  an issue
  • Conversation Creation: Interesting or fun advertising, emails, catch phrases, entertainment, or promotions
  • Brand Blogging: Creating blogs and participating in the blogosphere, in the spirit of open, transparent communications
  • Referral Programs: Creating tools that enable satisfied customers to refer their friends

      Definitions taken from the Word of Mouth Advertising Association

What are you doing to harness the power of word of mouth? Are you giving consumers and patients something to talk about or a voice so they may easily carry your message forward? Are you letting your viral activity probagate organically or are you taking steps to accelerate or amplify it?

Just remember, viral marketing cannot be reversed and can work in both directions — positive and negative — and it can be started by anyone.  It’s not for the faint of heart or those adverse to transparency. But if you are exceeding the expectations of those you serve or serving things up with a unique perspective or flair, viral marketing may be just the shot you need to boost your brand, increasing awareness and encouraging trial.

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