There has been much ado about Viral marketing over the last few years since the explosion of social sharing. If you have a viral marketing hit then it can seem beneficial in the short term, but how beneficial?
Double edged sword
IT is important to remember though that viral marketing can be a double edged sword and it can also be like a drug. Almost by definition anything viral must tend towards mass appeal, towards the middle or average person. Viral things are rarely niche in their appeal. The question that must be asked about viral marketing is, what is the value of a viral hit in both the short term and longer term?
I’ve met quite a few traditional marketers who have been fixated with the idea of viral hits and viral marketing. This is also acute amongst inexperienced Social Media Marketers, where the notion that all your friends will tell their friends is often exaggerated. This notion of mass appeal is a hangover from a different era and is down to a misinterpretation or lack of understanding of how the internet changes.. well everything.
Not always what it’s cracked up to be
There are quite a few cases where a viral hit has not had the predicted or hoped for benefit. 50,000 new visitors to a site does not necessarily mean a commensurate increase in business to a website if they are from a viral hit. 50,000 visitors won the hard way through commitment to your vision and looking after the niche that love you, certainly will though. The question for you as a marketer and as a business is how much of your art and uniqueness are you willing to give up in order to have enough mass appeal to “go viral” and once you do how will it affect what you already have?
Name Recognition and Familiarity
Name recognition and familiarity are certainly an after-effect of viral marketing, it is something sought after by many of the old mass marketers of the old media days. It can be a double edged sword though. Some brands sell so well in their niches only because they are almost exclusive to those niches and as soon as they gain mass appeal then they lose niche appeal. Why would they care you ask? Sometimes things lose their value, their specialness, when it’s available to everyone. The quiet little cafe where you know the owner and go to read your book might not be the same if it were as busy as city centre Starbucks.
Why should you care? Well mass appeal is fickle, niche appeal is far more consistent as the relationship between the business and their customers is far more committed. Driving into the niche is a far more effective marketing proposition in the long term.
Virality is nice but only if you recognise it as what it is, and what it is not.