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What is viral marketing?

Picture 13 Everyone talks about viral marketing like it’s this brand new tactic, borne of the information age.

But really, viral marketing could be anything from free samples in the grocery store to dropping wallets throughout a downtown area and loading each wallet with a card requesting the finder to visit a certain Web site to see if they have found the lucky million dollar wallet, to launching a Presidential campaign on YouTube.

Most people use the word 'viral' and assume it must have something to do with social media or the Internet. Oftentimes, that is true. But it doesn't have to be.
There is a great deal of talk today about buzz marketing or word of mouth marketing. Those are just another way of talking about viral marketing. Viral marketing is basically any marketing effort that you “release” into the marketplace and let it chart its own course. The key element of viral marketing is that you relinquish control to the consumers and let them take the campaign where they see fit.
It’s possible and often advantageous to use an element of viral marketing in every campaign you do. In fact, it’s been that way for years. The only difference is that your options are much broader now than they used to be.

There is no magic age or demographic for viral marketing. It all depends on the product, the medium and the audience. Again, like a creative campaign – it is not just for the young.

While the 15-25-year-olds are clearly heavy Internet users, so are the business and hobby bloggers. Want to create a rush of seniors? Virally give away free samples. Age is not the key factor. Matching the campaign to the audience is.

So don't let the label scare you away.  Viral marketing has been a smart tactic for a very long time.


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