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Viral marketing tips

Viral marketing increases online sales! That concept seems to pop up everywhere on Internet marketing resources. So what exactly is viral marketing?

The simplest way to explain viral marketing is to think in terms of mainstream networking. Your contacts know about you and your site and you hope to that they pass that information on to someone else. But hoping is not a good way to approach web marketing, you need to be pro-active in promotion.

By implementing viral marketing strategies, you provide an incentive for web site visitors to carry a sales message. This incentive is usually a free "carrier" tool for that marketing message or a means by which it is easier for people to spread the word about your products and services.  The idea is not to push your visitors into delivering your sales message to others, but as a side effect of them gaining benefit from a utility or service that you offer.

Free email services = free advertising

A good example of viral marketing is many of the free email services available on the Internet. The messages that you send from some these free services invariably contain promotion for the company providing the service; plus there's advertising in their user interfaces.

Take Hotmail for example. It handles 100 million legitimate. emails each day, for 230 million active users worldwide. Imagine having your sales message in 700 million emails a week! Even at very low CTR rates, that can translate to a whole lot of new visitors to your site.

OK, so those are pretty huge figures that most of us can only dream of achieving, so how does the little guy utilize the viral marketing concept on a budget of say....$0.

Articles as a viral marketing tool

A very successful strategy is the development of articles and tutorials such as these. You will notice that at the end of each article and tutorial in the copyright info, I request that if the content is going to be reproduced that reference is made to Taming the Beast.net. If I am fortunate enough, a webmaster may place an article on a high traffic web site (along with the proper acknowledgement) and this will create some traffic to our web site. Using this strategy, you are relying on the honesty of the user to acknowledge the origin of the tool.

Once you have published a number of articles, you can also submit them to article directories and archives.  I am still a firm believer that written content is king, and no matter what subject you choose write about, there will always be plenty of people wanting the information, especially if it's for free!  If you do decide to publish your own articles, ensure that the theme is related to your web site, otherwise the traffic you receive will be of little or no value.

The Best Ebook Generator - our review
We use & recommend the Ebook Generator by Armand Morin - click here & learn more. Create ebooks quickly & easily with the best software! A viral marketing super tool!

Ezines and viral marketing

Another very popular method of viral marketing via the Internet is through the use of ezines and newsletters. If your newsletter contains information of value, such as tips, hints, news or tutorials, you'll find that subscribers will forward it on to others; but be sure to ask them to as people do need a little prodding even for obvious actions.

The use of newsletters can also help build content for your web site which increases search engine visibility. 

It's very important to inform subscribers exactly what you will be doing with their details as the Internet is rampant with mailing lists being sold off by web masters. Depending on the industry and quality of list, an email address can be worth $1-$2.50, so savvy surfers are becoming more selective in what they'll subscribe to - they'll expect some sort of commitment that you won't be distributing, selling or renting their email addresses.

Most importantly, a newsletter should contain valuable information, not just sales copy - otherwise interest will quickly drop off and you'll be getting a number of unsubscribes. Worse still, your ezine will be deleted as soon as it arrives, leaving you with a valueless list that only sucks up your time, resources and bandwidth. 

The ezine industry has grown at an exponential rate over the last few years year but the overall quality of ezines has declined.  This is another good reason for publishing back issues of your newsletter online, so that prospective subscribers can view the quality of the content. 

If you don't have content available for an ezine and don't have time to develop articles , there's a number of resources on the Internet where you can gain industry specific articles which are free for reproduction - just try typing "free ezine articles for reproduction" into any search engine. If you do have the time, articles that you produce yourself are the best strategy as it helps to build up credibility with your subscribers.

Ensure that you mention in your ezine that subscribers are welcome to forward the ezine on to others, but they must forward the newsletter in it's entirety. Also include directions for subscribing and unsubscribe functions.

Also ensure that you use solid mailing list management software or services to make your newsletter easier to handle and to gauge results.

Other free viral marketing techniques include ecard plugin services, free software with embedded banners, surveys, tell a friend forms (word of mouth) with incentives and some referral programs. 

Podcasts, ebooks and whitepapers

Podcasts, stand-alone ebooks and whitepapers are also excellent viral marketing strategies. Ebooks can be very easily created with the right software. Learn more about ebooks here. You can also offer free ebooks to other webmasters to use as subscription incentives and sales bonuses.

Passing it around items

People love to forward on amusing, entertaining or informational items. These can be in the form of Flash games, Powerpoint (brr) presentations, amusing images, jokes etc. that can be forwarded on via email. 

If you use this strategy, ensure that it's relevant to your site. For example, jokes about carrots wouldn't be a good move for Taming the Beast.net, but a funny cartoon related to marketing that only people within the industry would understand could probably work quite well. A good example of online business related cartoons can be seen on Blaugh - very funny stuff.

If you don't have the graphics or programming skills to create these items, try hiring a freelancer through a service such as Elance, the world's largest freelance marketplace. It costs nothing to post projects, large or small and you may be pleasantly surprised as to how cheap it can be.

Viral marketing doesn't stop online

What if you could turn all your online visitors into willing offline marketers as well?  Read more about our infosheet strategy here

Viral Marketing creates a win/win situation for all parties. The user is provided a service or valuable information for free and in turn provides your site with free advertising. Start turning your web site visitors into part of your online sales force!

Further learning resources:

Autoresponder and mailing list manager software reviews

Outsourcing guide

Social media optimization

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
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