JupiterResearch report highlights best practices for viral marketing

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A mere 15% of viral campaigns prompted people to pass them on, according to an Aug. 21 JupiterResearch report, “Viral Marketing: Bringing the Message to the Masses.” As a result, viral marketers plan on decreasing their targeting of “influentials” by 55% over the coming year, the report said. Yet abandoning viral marketing efforts may not be a marketer’s best bet because the tactic—when done right—can still be an effective way to reach new prospects.

Emily Riley, a JupiterResearch analyst and co-author of the report, provides some best practices to help build a successful viral e-mail marketing campaign.

  1. Give people something worth forwarding. Readers aren’t going to forward your newsletter or marketing message unless there’s something in it for them. That’s why it’s important to include something tangible—such as a survey, informative tip or report—or something fun—like a game, video or quiz. “Are you giving people a reason to be viral? The biggest reason [readers pass your e-mail along] is giving readers something that their friends will get something out of,” Riley said. “Is there value? Is there a discount? These are things that matter.”
  2. Make it easy. The simple act of including a Forward to a Friend button can help push people to do just that. “People forget that it’s important to make it as easy as possible to forward a message,” Riley said.
  3. Use the right list—and demographic. Surprisingly, the younger the person, the less likely they are to forward something. Overall, only 7% of adults have forwarded a marketing message to another adult. A mere 3% of 18-to-24-year-olds have forwarded a message, while 10% of adults ages 45 to 54 have passed a message along. Consider this when planning your campaign.
  4. Think about partnering. There’s a reason that companies are decreasing the number of viral campaigns: They aren’t seeing a return on investment. You may be able to change that by hiring an outside agency that specializes in viral marketing, such as PopularMedia or BoldMouth, or you can send news about something you’re working on with your partner directly to its newsletter readership.
  5. Attach your message to a blog or microsite. You want your message to be picked up by the masses—not just the friends and colleagues of those people on your e-mail marketing list. Your best bet may be to seed blogs yourself, but be very careful, Riley said. “We see a lot of advertisers going on to blogs and discussing products and advertising efforts,” she said. “It’s best to go out and be yourself—10% of companies actually go out and pretend to be a random reader, while 22% contribute under a company name. It’s much better to go out and be yourself. And if you get negative feedback, listen to it and respond to it.” And make sure you give blog readers a way to sign up for your newsletter or marketing. You can provide a direct link in your signature line.
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