How Is Viral Marketing Unique?

For most of us, the word “virus” has a negative aspect to it. We hear the word and think either of getting sick, of a nasty little bug that can make us sick, or of a computer virus which cost us tons of data and hardship at one time or another. In fact, viruses are not necessarily bad, and most life on earth relies at least in part on them in one degree or another. Some people even argue that humanity itself fits the classic definition of a virus, infecting the planet earth for better or worse!

Classically, the definition of a virus is a “small particle that lives as a parasite in plants, animals, and bacteria and consists of a nucleic acid core within a protein sheath.” In some cases, this parasitic co-existence may actually benefit the host in one way or another, an existence known as a “symbiotic” relationship. It’s common knowledge that most viruses have the ability to replicate themselves without any outside assistance, simply by finding a medium in which they can exist. In other words, a virus, when introduced into a system, will make copies of itself. Due to their nature, most viruses are easily moved from one system to another as they replicate, causing them to spread quickly and easily from one host site to another.

When it comes to marketing and viral marketing campaigns, the idea is much simpler and focuses on the fact that most viruses (real or computerized) have the ability to replicate themselves without “outside” assistance. In this case, a “viral” marketing campaign is one that allows or stimulates customers who are exposed to the “viral” marketing campaign to actively help spread the word themselves.

That is, they send your promotion piece on to other potential customers due to their excitement with the product it underscores or because they found it entertaining as a result of containing something humorous, or worth sharing as the result of a gift or award option associated with the campaign.

Having such a built-in replication capability, just as with real viruses, it has the potential for exponential growth and can quickly spread a message to thousands or even millions of users from a single starting point. Urban myths are a good example of such growth. Even though numerous websites debunk such myths, they continue to circulate widely. More than half the people exposed to them forward them to others even though they’ve heard them already and know they are false. Sooner or later, the myths have spread too far and wide to stop.

Like ripples from a rock flung into a pond, the initial offering quickly spread outward causing exponential growth and a huge list of members to be tapped for marketing other services towards.

So the primary way Viral Marketing us unique is, it has the potential to self promote by word of mouth exponentially.

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