Viral marketing, viral advertising, or marketing buzz are buzzwords referring to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of viruses or computer viruses. It can be delivered by word of mouth or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral marketing may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or text messages.

The ultimate goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to create viral messages that appeal to individuals with high social networking potential (SNP) and that have a high probability of being presented and spread by these individuals and their competitors in their communications with others in a short period of time. Viral Marketing is quite the buzzword right now, but I am surprised how many people I talk to misunderstand the basics of how the process works. The concepts that YouTube is the sole repository of viral videos, or that “it’s all about” being someone’s friend on Facebook are unfortunately common. It is very easy for plugged-in social media experts to forget that there are a bunch of people for whom viral marketing is still a completely foreign concept. It is with this in mind that I have co-authored a short document called “How Does Viral Marketing Work?” There are a couple important things to know about the document: It is an introduction to viral marketing, the first in a series that will get increasingly detailed and insightful.
It was created to encourage understanding and discussion of viral marketing, not to talk about services.
By now, I’m sure you’ve already clicked over to the PDF and are joyfully reading about the mechanics of the viral spread. Even for people who think they are already experts, a brush up on the nuts and bolts might not be such a bad thing. Marketers have said to me that sometimes, in the frenzy to create something new and great for a client, they lose site of the fundamentals of the medium. That is: word-of-mouth marketing amplified by the power of the web.

In the discussion of how the web has made word-of-mouth mechanics into a truly viable form of marketing, I also discuss the concept of the “super-participant.” A super-participant is someone like my little blue friend to the left. Super-participants make viral marketing work. Bloggers, popular YouTube users, Social news/bookmarking power-users, they are all super-participants. “…on the internet there are tens on millions of potential super-participants. The web is a fully democratic medium and the constant micro-segmentation of interests and ideas allows for almost anyone to be the “mass media” of their microcosm.”

Again, you need to read & understand more on topics such as:

The Differences Between Viral Marketing and Traditional Marketing
How Not To Use Viral Marketing
The Power of an Engaged Consumer

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