You don't Know Viral Marketing

March 3, 2006 - Get free updates of new posts here

I am a tad buzzed at the time of this writing but I have to get this thought out. The title truly explains it all. People have NO clue what viral marketing is. I am very fortunate to talk with tons of young entrepreneurs and see cool companies and I hear a lot of their marketing plans. The key to their marketing plan:

“Oh yea, we will do some viral marketing and it will get huge”

People are so Fing clueless about Viral marketing, its difference from word of mouth and why it works. Here are the basics of a successful viral campaign:

1- Sexy: There has to be a reason for me to want to talk about it. Show me sexy baby!

2- Tools: Sometimes people will just talk but providing users the tools and means, helps make virus spreading easier.

3- Selfish: It has to benefit me. People want to talk and spread things for different reasons. Social clout, the guy with all the great websites or now I can do more things because more people are using the site.

Great examples of viral products: Microsoft Word, Paypal & eBay

Other products like Google aren’t viral that I get benefit by having my friend use the site but since the product kicks ass I am likely to tell my friends to use it. That’s word of mouth. Word of mouth happens because a product sucks, rules or there is a reason for people to talk about it.

A virus is something that hits 1 person and they purposefully hit another and so forth. I hope people realize if they want viral there product needs to be inherently viral.  Viral Marketing is an actual driver of your product or service that makes people want to get others to use it not just talk about it. Night=)

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6 responses to “You don't Know Viral Marketing

  1. Shivani Reply

    it seems like a lot of what you are saying about viral marketing is inherent in the product. is there a way to facilitate viral marketing if your product isn’t something that absolutely kicks ass or something that majorly benefits a consumer?

  2. Wen Reply

    BIG HUG NOAH!!! but please refrain from writing when drinking… it makes a little less sense than usual (but still makes sense)

  3. Rebort Reply

    What you’re talking about is the network effect in economics — meaning, my use or enjoyment of a product goes up dramatically if a lot of other people are using it too (as you noted: eBay, but also World of Warcraft,, web based forums, et cetera). PayPal is too, a little bit, but Word isn’t, and neither is any single-user text editor (file formats are a just vendor lock-in and not “viral” at all). These are connected concepts, because the network effect may depend on a certain word of mouth/meme/comepelling/entertaining concept — but not always (take a look at the instant popularity of WoW, for example).

    A closer example of viral marketing would be something like the memes around Napoleon Dynamite, the online games promoting Spielberg’s AI or those fake blowjob Puma adverts that circulated awhile back (provided they actually came from Puma, which they sort of did).

  4. Charles Tran Reply

    how dare you write an article about viral marketing and neglect to mention hotmail?! hotmail’s viral-friendliness is built into every message you send to your friends.

    It supports:
    point #1 (sexy == FREE email == sexy, at least to me back in the mid 90s)

    point #2 (tools — built-in mechanism)… I don’t even need to talk about it, it’s automatically hyping hotmail when I communicate with my friends.

    point #3… bragging rights for having FREE email with 10mb of space. w00t.

    I demand a correction. eCrush is a good example too, I remember typing in everybodies email address into it, not realizing it was a spam trap.

    Another point that you should mention in #1 is phonetics. Google is more fun to say than Altavista. PayPal is more fun than BillPoint, blah blah…