Yesterday the Wall Street journal ran an article by Raymund Flandez on the power of viral marketing for small business under the tagline, "How to use video to expand your business in a YouTube world." The article contained some great examples of successful viral video campaigns across a wide variety of businesses and viral strategies. We think it also successfully brought to light the power of viral and social media marketing for small business and start-ups which, until now, was an element of the industry that seems to have been relegated to blogs and forums. Prior to this article, the mainstream press has focused on the "big brand" viral success stories when discussing viral marketing. Due to this focus, we all know about Dove, Axe, and BMW, but continual discussion of the 50 millions views achieved by "Evolution" can leave the small business entrepreneur feeling a little left out.
One of the many beauties of viral marketing is its accessibility to companies of all sizes. In fact, small businesses marketing emerging brands probably stand more to gain from viral marketing than almost any other type business. As evidenced by this article, the power of the content and the ease of social spread facilitated by the internet allow for extraordinary results for companies of any size. As quoted in the WSJ article, BlendTec has seen a sales increase of 500% since the launch of their "Will It Blend?" campaign, and Maine Root's sales have soared $2.5 million with their viral marketing efforts. Our experience with this phenomenon confirms these findings. In our independent example, Pandemic Labs created a viral video which has achieved 3.1 million views across our seeding network in the two months since its launch. The video has driven thousands of new visitors to our website and thus far we see that for every $1 of cost of the video, we drove over 5 unique visitors to our website. As the video is still achieving over 10,000 daily views, these numbers obviously only improve with time. Moreover, further analysis of the tracking data indicates that these were "high quality" visitors, more than half of which continued on from our homepage to explore the rest of our site. This data shows that our simple video was a more effective marketing tool than our SEO-optimized Google Adwords campaign, which had a higher bounce rate and drove fewer "high quality" visitors to our site.
One of the key benefits of viral marketing, whether you're a Fortune 500 brand or a small start-up, is something we call "consumer self-selection." Unlike TV ads where you are basically throwing your ad out there for anyone to see (or ignore), viral media has the natural tendency to seek out the best potential customers due to the fact that the customers themselves are selecting to view each video. If someone likes your brand and your viral, they are likely to forward it to people who will also appreciate your message. While this "viral autonomy" is not perfect, the theory does make sense. A college guy who finds and likes the new Axe viral video is more likely to send it to his like-minded male friends than to his sister. Through the viraling process, the videos target audiences who then self-select as they continue to watch and forward. This pseudo-evolutionary pressure of social networks acts on viral media and increases the chance that the media will be played by the consumers who will be most receptive to your message. Furthermore, due to the "word of mouth" nature of the referral and the social proximity of the referrer to the recipient, the viral also tends to target consumers when they are at their most engaged and most receptive. A final compelling fact regarding "the consumer self-selection" is that all of the automatic targeting is accomplished at a fraction of the cost of a traditional marketing campaign.
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