A Brief Intro to Viral Marketing for the Small Business Marketer

Sometimes I feel like I am working for a trendy, bleeding-edge IT company, one of the dot coms circa 1999, or perhaps at present-day Google. McElroy encourages personal ideas for creative client solutions and bold new marketing strategies. Instead of buying packaged advertising strategies and software tools, McElroy often looks to its own for ways to excel–whether marketing to new clients or helping existing clients solve their translation workflow problems.Lisa Siciliani, our Marketing Director, recently forwarded me an article about a high school teacher who made his own iPod commercial. For some reason, people felt compelled to forward the link to this little video short to their friends–hundreds of thousands of times! What better marketing strategy, than having your potential and existing customer base as willing participants in disseminating your brand to their friends, family and coworkers?It turns out this type of marketing strategy has a name–viral marketing–and is employed in a myriad of ways by various companies on the web. Risqué lingerie commercials are purposely banned by the companies to give an already popular video even more legs. Advertising agencies have sprung up that specialize in planting or “seeding” commercials on popular blogs and video sites.Does viral marketing carry software that could destroy your computer or invade your privacy? In spite of the sinister aspect of the name, the answer is emphatically “no.” At its worst, it might cut down on company productivity and eat up bandwidth–but, hey, who among us hasn’t wasted a few minutes out of the day to check out a dancing baby or singing bunny? Viral marketing gets its name from the nature of its potential to rapidly propagate, but it is essentially word-of-mouth in electronic format.Everyone probably remembers the first and most widely cited example of a viral–the Hotmail tagline. Millions of new Hotmail users were generated by this clever gimmick, though today, hardly anyone probably signs up for e-mail after reading the advertising in a signature. Recent examples of virals include Burger King’s Subservient Chicken, and the JibJab cartoon that lampooned both of the Presidential candidates.Does viral marketing work for the B2B marketer? We think it can, and it does, often in unexpected ways. Several of our articles on the translation business and languages have been referenced across the web by business users of the information. Though it might be of a more informative nature than a singing bunny, business end users are ultimately consumers, and will pass along what excites and interests them.

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