One simple video can create a huge following, brand exposure, and traffic for a person, business, cause or event. And, it doesn’t have to be fancy.

Here’s one – blending an iPhone – from Don’t try this at home, it’s toxic! (Footnote: over 9 million views at this time)

One of the keywords of the new millennium is viral marketing.

What is it, and how can rising entrepreneurs try to harness this beast – whatever it is – to their advantage?

While the words are thrown around on a seemingly daily basis in the marketing world, an actual definition of the term can be difficult to pin down. Some say no viral marketing exists. (Brian Solis)

Goin’ back in time.

To explain it fully, let’s go back to the good ol’ days, when the best way of advertising was print newspaper, catalogs and maybe a billboard. What was the holy grail of marketing then? Word-of-mouth.

If a person happened across a business and thought it was wonderful, they would likely spread the word to their family and friends. And if the family and friends got a sterling recommendation from a person they trusted, they were much more likely to go visit that establishment.

After all, word-of-mouth is an endorsement from somebody that isn’t being paid to hawk the product. It’s marketing gold.

Current day.

Fast forward to our social web times, where ADD addicts hammer the Internet. While marketing has gotten infinitely more sophisticated due to the robust growth of technology, word-of-mouth yet retains its saliency. What does this have to do with viral marketing? Viral marketing is word-of-mouth advertising, only it might be better called word-of-mouse.

Image representing StumbleUpon as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

Hip websites.

If you go to any website these days that sells a product or service, there’s almost always a “recommend us to a friend!” or social chick-lets links. This is genius, since it’s so simple for a satisfied customer send a link to a friend, share it across Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon.

In the digital age a happy customer can send the link of that business to hundreds of people in a few seconds.  These recipients share it with their friends, and so on. News spreads fast. (The China Earthquake, Hudson River Plane Crash – it was news broken on the social web). This is the heart of viral marketing, and you should definitely try to find a way to work in a referral system on your site. The dividends can be amazing.

Remember the little tag line that was at the bottom of every hotmail (microsoft) when emails were sent. Amazingly simple, yet extremely viral.

But why is it called “viral” marketing?

Because it’s a kind of marketing that spreads the same way as a computer virus – through email and Internet users – we, the people.

Have you thought about building a viral campaign for your business?


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Entrepreneur Magazine says Jon Rognerud is one of the most sought-after Digital Marketing Experts. His clients extend from high-end brands and middle-tier businesses in both B2B and B2C. His SEO website optimization book, "The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website" from Entrepreneur Press is in bookstores now.