The viral marketing business model was first described by Tim Draper and popularized in 1997 to describe Hotmail’s practice of adding advertising to the outgoing mail of their users. However, viral marketing has been around for as long as people have been selling things. In so many words, it is word-of-mouth advertising.
It is in the nature of a person’s tendency to “tell their friends”. The terminology, or what we refer to this as, is new. Surveys tell us that the average person has at least six close friends that they speak to fairly often. If they have a great experience with a product they will on average, tell six people.
Those same surveys tell us that when an internet user finds something valuable, informative, funny, interesting or free on the internet, they will share that with 12 of their “online friends”. Thus the internet is the backdrop for the most successful viral marketing business model.
Marketing pros insist that in order to sell something, you need to give something away for free. I recently downloaded a free e-book with great dieting tips. It made complete sense. It was designed by the head of a supplement company. He suggested that you share the book with everyone. His goal, of course, was to sell supplements.
He might have sold the book. It contained as much information as many of the diet books that line bookstore shelves, but he realized the value of giving something away, in order to get something. Not only do people love free stuff, they have a tendency to “trust” people or companies that give them something with no strings attached, especially when that something has value.
There are numerous software programs online that offer a free version and a “platinum” version. This is another example of a viral marketing business model. When one person sees this free software program, they will tell at least 12 of their friends online about it.
Social networking has become extremely popular in recent months. People on MySpace and Facebook literally have hundreds of online friends and they “share” things with them on a daily basis. If you can provide something that they want to share, then you may have struck it rich.
There are other elements of a successful viral marketing business model. The key element is designing the free item campaign for something free that people can share with others.