The Dos and Don’ts of Online Viral Marketing

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Marketing cycle sketchFor many, viral marketing is a mystery. When it does happen, you can’t figure out exactly how or why it happened. Because of its mercurial nature, many companies avoid viral marketing campaigns altogether, and that’s a mistake.

The good news is that viral marketing is less mysterious than you might think. The bad news is there are many common viral marketing mistakes that can kill your campaign before it even gets started.

That’s why I’ve come up with a list of the dos and don’ts of viral marketing. Please add to this list by leaving a comment.

  • Do: Make it easy to share – The entire concept of viral marketing is based on allowing your audience to share your message with others. To help others spread your message, you need to make sharing as easy as possible. This means including social media buttons that allow for submission and voting on sites like Digg and ReddIt, links for forwarding content to friends, Twitter and Facebook sharing buttons, and links for embedding content on other websites and blogs.
  • Don’t: Restrict access – Remember, you want to make it as simple as possible for people to share your content. This means you shouldn’t restrict access by making people register or download additional software to access your content. Web users are in a hurry. If you present them with roadblocks to accessing your content, they’ll just move onto something else.
  • Do: Create content that makes people react – The best viral marketing campaigns elicit an emotional response from viewers. These responses can include anything from a WTH!?! to laughter, from passionate agreement to pure anger. Whatever you do, don’t be boring and neutral. Make sure your content causes some sort of reaction.
  • Don’t: Assume you must be controversial – While there are certainly plenty of controversial viral campaigns, you don’t have to be controversial to get people to spread your message. If you’re controversial just for the sake of creating shock value, you run the risk of coming across as cheap and desperate for attention.
  • Do: Have a purpose for your viral marketing campaign – Viral marketing campaigns should: be well-planned out, fit within your other brand activity, and have an actual purpose. Your viral campaign could be used to:
    – Create buzz for a new product or service
    – Build brand awareness
    – Learn more about your target audience (collect data)
    – Directly drive sales
  • Don’t: Disappear after going viral – Like the one-hit-wonder band that fades into oblivion, too many companies don’t follow up their viral successes. Sure, it’s nice to have a lot of views on your YouTube video or to get thousands of comments on your blog, but if you truly want to capitalize on it, you need to keep the momentum going. Viral marketing is a process, not a one-time event, that goes hand in hand with your other marketing efforts. Follow up with sequel videos, blog series, behind-the-scenes info on the viral content, and more.
  • Do: Respond to comments – Viral marketing presents a great opportunity for you to connect with your audience, learn more about them, and build relationships. Be ready to participate and talk with your audience.
  • Don’t: Get upset over negative comments – Earlier, I talked about creating content that makes people feel something. Well, when you do this, you’re going to have people who react negatively to it. That’s okay. Just make sure you handle negative comments properly.

Do you use viral marketing for your business? Let us know!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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