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November 7, 2006

Running a successful viral campaign

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We’ve written about the power of word-of-mouth marketing campaigns before, so today’s Intricacies of a Great Viral or WOM Marketing Program session was especially interesting to me. I also happen to think WOM is something that doesn’t get nearly enough attention, so I’m always happy when sessions like these arise.

The session got off to a humorous start when Zdeneck Kratky introduced attendees to Norelco’s ShaveEverywhere campaign. If you’re not familiar with the campaign, go check out that site (but come back!) and peruse the collection of videos.

Aside from just being humorous and blush-inducing, Zdeneck’s example showed the power of attacking even sensitive issues head on. If you appear uncomfortable with what you’re marketing, so will your users. (I’ll never look at a peach the same way again *shivers*)

Jason Woodmansee took over once Zdeneck finished embarrassing the group and outlined a strong WOM strategy. What I really liked about what Jason was offering was he talked a lot about establishing a presence in a market where a dominant player is already exists. I’m sure it’s something a lot of attendees could relate to (perhaps Yahoo should have been there…) and it put a whole new spin on the concept of getting your message out.

Jason’s strategy involved four basic steps.

Prepare the field — Before you launch your viral campaign, leak rumors that something may be in the works. Google is the king of this. How many times have we ‘accidentally’ discovered a new beta they were working on or a new service that was about to be released. By getting the information out early, it puts your name back in user’s top of mind and makes people more receptive to what you’re offering.

Let consumers to do your marketing – If you’re having an event, invite bloggers and other media and let them do the work for you. You’d be surprise how a bunch of enthusiastic voices can stir up positive attention. Many bloggers have very loyal audiences, if you win them over, you’ll win over their audience. This is a great way to promote good will and get ‘more authentic’ buzz.

Get the product in the hand of influencers – Bloggers aren’t the only people who can help put fire under your viral campaign. Before your campaign goes public, send consumers of your most prized demographic a sample of your product. Go out to message boards and give them a special link or code to get an advanced copy of whatever you’re selling. This will generate an awareness and an interest in your product, and you may even see people posting positive reviews on the message boards.

Start the official marketing campaign – Now that people are talking and buzz has already been generated, it’s safe to launch your official marketing campaign. Your audience is already waiting.

Your job isn’t over once your launch your campaign. It’s important that you monitor the conversation about both you, and your product. In today’s market, not only do you have to market what you make, you also have to market who you are. Users won’t buy your products if they don’t trust who you are and what your company represents.

And don’t underestimate the power of negative feedback. Rumors and conspiracy theories grow like wildfires on the Internet. If you don’t monitor your buzz, you may find yourself quite surprised to hear what people are saying behind your back.

The best way to monitor the conversation is to join in. Find out where your users are expressing themselves and be there. Create a portion of your web site, perhaps a company blog, which will address and add to these online conversations. Maybe you should start a newsletter or offer an opt-in RSS feed. Create SEM initiatives that use relevant keywords to invite visitors into your site.

Most importantly, if you do add a voice, it has to be an honest one. This includes being honest in your relationships with other people, your opinions and your identity. Remember what happened to Edelman.

WOM is the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal. Start your viral campaigns off on the right foot and you’ll have a greater chance at success.

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