Written By: Tom Ogg, Co-Owner – Travel Professional NEWS
A few years ago I had an idea that I could create cruise countdown clocks that anyone could create for free and use on their websites, discussion boards, signature files and anywhere else that they would like to. The site would have to create various types of code that users could employ depending on the application they were going to use it with. I initially got some quotes and it seemed too expensive for an unknown result. The more I studied .php, the better I was able to understand what it was that I wanted. I ended up bidding the job our on one of the global sites that connect people that create sites using .php and those that want sites built. I ended up getting the site built for a whopping $350.00. Because the gentleman that built the site was in India, I decided to host it with a company in the U,K, so that we both could access it if we needed to.
About three months after we launched the site the hosting company yanked the plug on it without notice. It seemed that the site had become so popular that it had slammed their server farm with activity. It was hard to believe, but that is the nature of viral marketing. Because each countdown clock contained a link back to the site, people that saw them followed the link to get their own banners. And so it went, the more banners that were built, the more people that saw them and wanted their own until thousands of banners were on the Internet putting a heavy strain on the host server that was delivering the banners all over the world. Avid cruisers would have several banners, one for each future cruise they had booked in their signature file.
As it turned out, the gentleman that built the site for me reconstructed a new site and convinced the host server to once again house the site. Did I mention that the banners also include keywords and a link to my various cruise and port review sites? The tens of thousands of banners being used by cruisers around the world generated a ton of traffic to my review sites.
If you are considering using viral marketing to boost your traffic, here are 6 things that are critical for a successful effort, no matter how you campaign takes form.
Your Viral Marketing Program Must Offer Value: Giving away something of value for free is a critical element of a successful viral marketing program. eNewsletters, widgets, gadgets, software, apps, eBooks, videos, articles or whatever you are using has to have value to the user. Simply giving away advertising is not going to motive people to spread the word. If you are distributing a free eBook on a specific travel topic, then it should be complete and offer the readers a compelling reason to pass it along.
It Must Be Able to Withstand Rapid Growth: If your program is successful expect geometric growth. This was the problem with my cruise ticker site. I never anticipated that it would grow at the speed that it did. Allowing for scalable growth from small to huge is critical should your viral marketing effort gain traction. Never enter into a viral marketing program if rapid growth cannot be accommodated by the existing distribution structure. Not being able to distribute your “product or service” when people request it is likely to do more harm than good. Ideally, whatever you are using to capture reader’s action should be self-fulfilling. Rather than having to manually send an email with an attachment, your site should immediately fulfill the request automatically.
Offer Your Product or Service With Effortless Accessibility: When someone sees your product or service and wants their own, they should be able to click to your site and get it without any interference. If you are offering software, widgets or other downloadable software, the user should be able to obtain it without giving any information whatsoever. I have no idea who was using my cruise tickers and clocks and really don’t care. The fact that they are easy to generate anonymously is just one of the reasons that they were so popular. If you are offering digital material that must be delivered via email, then simply request the email address to deliver it to and nothing else. Trying to obtain additional information will only deter potential users.<
Use Other People’s Resources to Fuel Your Campaign: There are virtually millions of on-line chat groups, social networks, article libraries, communities and other resources that can serve as distribution venues for your viral marketing project. Penetrating these resources is critical to rapid growth and care must be invested in doing so without being intrusive. Populating across the Internet’s resources is essential to a successful viral marketing program.
Be Creative and Entertaining: My second countdown clock site used variables of art and technology, so that users could create countdown clocks with their itinerary and ship so that the ship sailed across the various sights they are going to see on their itinerary until the day they actually depart on their cruise. The clocks were free, fun, immediately accessible, entertaining and unique. Content that is both creative and entertaining cannot be stressed enough in importance.
Be Engaging, Shocking, Funny or Appeal to Another Emotion: Instead of creating an ebook entitled “Punta Mita Visitor Guide” try something like “7 Must Know Tips When Visiting Punta Mita for Gringos” or “How to Avoid Tourists When Visiting Punta Mita” or “Punta Mita’s Darkest Secrets You Must Know” or “Where to Find Love in Punta Mita”. You get the idea. Wrap your content in ways that will appeal to your reader’s various emotions, curiosity or humor.
Don’t get caught up in the thinking that you need to spend a lot of money and time in creating your viral marketing efforts. Many of the most successful viral marketing successes came from simple content. It is the emotion that the content conjures up that creates the demand for it. So, keep your smart phone handy to capture the next million view viral content.