If someone you know is trying to get their grey matter around social bookmarking, viral advertising and media sharing then this article might clear up a few things. Talk about Viral Marketing has been rife and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon. It seems from our experience that organisations are finally getting the idea they need to be involved but often stall early on. There are so many options out there to connect with your customers and grow your business but where do you start?

Firstly, the terminology.

The term ‘Viral’ has been around since the mid-nineties in this context and is used to describe a piece of Media that has been extensively shared. Unlike traditional advertising viral media is passed from person to person, in the early days by email and more commonly today via services such as FaceBook or Twitter.

‘Media’ can mean anything from a video to a webpage.

The process.

Viral marketing is the process of “obtaining added value from your marketing spend”. It attempts to get your network sharing with their network, who then in turn share with their network, and so if successful, your media reaches people far and wide.

There is actually some interesting maths behind this by the name of Metcalf’s Law but rather than further befuddle you the graph to the right shows in simple terms how your exposure can grow exponentially compared to a consistent marketing spend (this could equally be labelled ‘Effort’). The point where value exceeds the spend is termed the critical mass.

People share traditional media too!

Yes, this is true and circulations of magazines and newspaper readership have driven advertising rates for years. The difference is that you will never know who is reading your content further than that of the demographics supplied to you by the publication.

The power of Social Media is that it allows your organisation to interact with this readership and tailor content to suit. Effectively entering you and your organisation into a dialogue with both customers, potential customers and those on the periphery. This dialogue can take so many forms both positive and negative but done right you will have the opportunity to discuss and answer any issues that arise.

What do I share?!

Well we talked about media being anything and everything and that’s true but in order to be successful at this type of marketing your content needs to be worthy (we’ll get to this) and have ability (it’s very difficult to share the taste of your wonderful baking on the internet).

The most common types of share fall into surprisingly few categories:

  • Written word (e.g. blog posts, open letters, feedback and reviews etc)
  • Video / audio (e.g. music videos, family footage, events and tutorials)
  • Images (e.g. photos, info graphics, maps, artworks, reportage)
  • Interactive media (games, quizzes, apps…)

The reasons we share are a little more emotional:

  • It’s funny (The most shared type of content is that that makes us laugh. Think about a person you know who gets the punch line wrong. The inability to remember and tell a joke seldom kills our desire to share it. We want to share the giggles we have and cheer people up when they need it. )
  • That’s amazing (Did you see that…! If we see something that amazes us we are programmed to share this with others.)
  • That is just what I was thinking (We often use other people’s opinions to help shape and strengthen our own. It is only natural to present these to those around us.)
  • It’s underground / specialist (The immediacy and accessibility of sharing means it is ideal for content that isn’t available on other channels. Less mainstream folk tend to stay together as we all need to belong to some extent.)
  • OMG! Embarrassing! (Whether to confess your own faux pas or expose others, our brains love a bit of cringe-worthy pleasure.)
  • What a drama (whether it is a breaking news story or an East Enders story line. Anything that is dramatic will be shared.)
  • Flirtatious (Like dirty jokes provocative content goes a very long way but we tend to share more discreetly and with a smaller more trusted group)
  • Any deeply emotional content.

Reading through the above list it is hard to ignore that we as humans are emotionally driven and that Social Bookmarking and sharing in general can easily be compared to the way in which we hold conversations or tell stories.

Those stories we hear that fall into the categories above are far more likely to be shared on by our listeners. They involve us, speak to us, move us and we have a need to share that.

Where do I share it?

As with any relationship before you can share things you have to have someone to share it with. If you have made efforts to build some form of network on line then you will be off to a good start already but if you are totally new where do you start? Well, asking your friends never does any harm.

FaceBook and new boy on the block Google+ are where many get started and probably where your friends will send you. Link up with those real life friends and start sharing things that spark some emotion.

What about colleagues or ex-colleagues? LinkedIn is pretty much ‘FaceBook for professionals’ and is fast becoming an essential business tool. Although seen as way to stay in touch with colleagues it has quickly adopted Facebook’s approach to advertising and sharing.

Look for groups or circles of people that may be interested in what you have to offer and don’t be scared to join groups with what may seem to be your competition. Your competition is already ahead of you and you can probably learn or glean quite a bit from the content they are sharing.

Get involved in discussions and help people out where you can. Pass on other people’s content, as you will never create enough on your own.

Be wise about what you share and where you share it. Be aware of your audience demographics and share the right content in appropriate places. You may have a wide range but different approaches will pique the interest of different groups.

Woah, hold it what about…?

This section of “Where” could be a collection of articles in its own right. Every site has it’s own niche and we don’t profess to know them all or even which one is right for you but we probably know a man who does. Today it’s less about what you know already and more about your ability to find out and sometimes we all need a bit of help.

Help them help you.

If you already have a site with products or content make it easy to let your ‘listeners’ become your speakers. Apple was famous for its ‘evangelists’ – users who were never paid or officially anything to do with Apple, they were just enthusiastic users who wanted to share their experiences of the ‘great product’.

Simple sharing buttons can be integrated into your site to allow a simple one-click approach. You may even wish to offer incentives for joining your groups or sharing your content.

Once your groups start to share your content you can keep an eye on where it is being shared and who with. This will help you to find new networks and connections.

Let us help you.

Of course all this might seem like way too much effort. Despite understanding the basic concepts there’s something just not clicking with you and your approach. That’s where we, and many others like us, come in. If you are struggling to create your content, or your network needs a kick start maybe it is time to ask for some advice or look at your approach through a different set of eyes.




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