Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Safelists, Announcement Lists, & Viral Marketing. Part 2

All of us have had the misfortune (or perhaps good fortune, if you have a lot of spare time) of being on a number of our friends' e-mail forwarding lists. Every time they receive a joke that they think is funny or the latest urban legend ("Watch out for AIDS-infected needles hidden in theater seats or gas pump handles."), they very generously pass it on to us and the 15 or more other people on their list. Many of the people on their list then pass it on to 15 or more other people. Observing this phenomenon, it occurred to a number of enterprising Internet marketers to try to harness this distribution technique for marketing.
A consulting group ran an experiment on viral marketing . Results were interesting. What we found was that in order for the distribution to be effective (i.e. for people to keep passing it on) it had to be either of a "hysterical" nature (ex: hidden AIDS needles or people stealing your kidneys) or it had to be humor or complete nonsense. Otherwise, it died in two generations (that is, it was not passed on more than twice). In theorizing about these results, we considered the effectiveness of an ad traveling along with one of these hysterical or nonsensical e-mails which would survive several generations. We concluded that the state of mind induced by either the hysteria or the nonsense of the primary message was not conducive to generating response to the ad. In other words, the ad did not flow with the material and thus would not be effective.
One of the funniest things I have seen was the viral e-mail that convinced the reader that the technology now existed for an ordinary computer monitor to take someone's picture like a camera. You were then given a link to a page where you were instructed to hold your face in front of the monitor and then click a "shutter button" and count down the exposure time. To see the results, you were taken to a full screen picture of a surprised looking monkey - which was a pretty accurate picture of you at the time! This particular viral achieved extremely wide distribution. However, it could certainly not be used effectively for marketing. Who wants to buy or join something when it has just made a monkey out of you?
Thus, while viral marketing per se does not appear to be an effective Internet marketing technique, an understanding of its limitations can lead us to consider the most powerful technique of all - sincere communication. People decide whether to pay attention to e-mail based on two obvious factors: the source and the subject. Viral e-mail, by definition, comes from a trusted source. It also has an attention grabbing subject. Its limitation is that it is either not serious at all (just humor or a practical joke) or it is too serious (warning of some bizarre danger).
There is a somewhat slower, yet very effective process, however. You can send sincere communication to someone you know (and who you know does not mind receiving e-mail from you) and sincerely tell them about your successful experience with an affiliate program such as SFI. Do not make it sound like an ad in any form or fashion! Rather, let it just be a sincere sharing with them of your experience. Mix in other things about your life and inquire about their lives so that it is not just a single subject e-mail. They, in turn, may become interested in your program and may later join. If they do, they may later share their successful experience with others that they know. And so it continues and grows! Let's not call this process "viral marketing." Let's call it "infectious enthusiasm"!

from George Little's Internet Income Course. Register to SFI for free and get immediate access to the complete 79-part course.

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