Monday, 25 August 2008

From Viral to Social

In this blog I discuss the difference between viral and Social Network Marketing and why, depending on your goals, viral is still something best left to your doctor and not your Advertising agency.

"Viral -- not a living organism, it can only reproduce by infecting its hosts and contaminating its genetic code"

The term viral has been useful in describing a type of marketing effect that results from personal sharing of social media. The process is simple; one person shares it with two people, those two shared it with two more and so forth thereby creating an explosive rate of growth in a short time frame. Pre-Internet this effect would not have been easy or even possible. Can you imagine trying to throw magazine ads at 20 of your closest friends and then have them throw them 20 more at their friends and so on? Limitations of non-digital media prevented this "viral" phenomena from occurring.

Viral was a great boom for marketing gurus for a number of reasons:

1. Lower production value seems to work best translating into lower cost
2. Customers provided the momentum further reducing costs
3. Placement of content on consumer generated spaces or Social Networks greatly reduced costs normally associated with media buys.

Despite these strong upsides, as one might expect from a virus it is not all good. Translated into marketing terms the negatives of Viral marketing can be largely described as:

1. Low brand control
2. Brand message limited
3. Customer relationship loyalty low

Viral has become a very popular tool in the modern marketeers arsenal and an occasion benefit to brands. So what are the options to preserve the good and minimise the downsides. The recommended is Social Marketing.

"Social -- pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations"

Social marketing uses the same forces that Viral marketing uses; word of mouth and grass roots energy. However unlike its viral counterpart the focus is more on connecting with consumers and less upon eyeballs.

Social Network Marketing, at its core, is about creating interesting content that incorporates a strong message and exercises strong brand control. Strong brand control does not mean "advertising" it only means that the content should reflect the brands personality or DNA so that consumers can see a clear link between the two (content and brand) and benefit from the association.

Social Network Marketing is usually more targeted in its content so as to appeal to particular demographic as opposed to the more risky alternative of trying to appeal to every ones taste. This could result in fewer views but it significantly increases the likelihood that the people watching are appreciating, understanding and developing loyalty. One of the significant standout features of Social media done well is that it engenders ownership and connectedness to the content. Whereas viral tends to be expendable and transitory.


1. Exercises strong brand control
2. Is interesting and relevant
3. Designed for a targeted population but maybe interesting to many
4. Develops audience and loyalty through relevance
5. Utilises word of mouth to gain momentum
6. Benefits from lower production cost which provide a grass roots look and feel

Everything evolves and it is time to move past the concept of viral as the optimal achievement. More sophisticated analysis shows that it is better to have 100,000 views by potential customers and 1,000,000 views by random persons unlikely to benefit. A move away from a pure viral approach is a benefit for both consumers and brands.

Consumers benefit from receiving quality, relevant content that enhances their lives and brands benefit by being able to stay true to their core message.

As more and more content is generated, consumers will become increasingly selective in their viewing habits. Occasionally choosing the frivolous, but more often selecting the familiar.

1 comment:

proson said...

I think with the increase usage of facebook, hong kong people begin to realize the importance of viral marketing.

like some company already creating facebook apps and use it as a promotional tool, but with my past experience social traffic is non royal. e.g. social bookmarking, if you don't bookmark your blog post,
no one will comes, so SEO probably is a favorable low cost solution
in terms of driving web site traffic ..

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