Everyone's talking about viral marketing (Obviously it works...if everyone's talking about it!).

Just when you think it's old news, some ingenious marketer comes up with a new way to reinvigorate this tried-and-true business concept, traditionally known as referral marketing. Referral marketing is the art of getting people, who may not even be your customers, to refer your product or service to other people, typically their friends or acquaintances. Viral marketing, simply put, is referral marketing over the Internet.

In the first of this three-part series running for three consecutive weeks, I'll define viral marketing and tell you why you should consider using it. In ensuing weeks, I'll tell you how to measure the “viralocity” of a viral marketing campaign, and give you a list of 13 best practices for successful viral email marketing.

Viral Marketing Defined

“Viral marketing” was originally penned in a newsletter by venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, who defined it as “network-enhanced word of mouth.”

While the word “viral” may have negative connotations (think “the flu” and “corrupted hard drive”), the concept is a positive one. Marketers have long believed that those who hear about a product or service from a friend are more likely to buy, and buy more quickly and easily. In fact, many articles on viral marketing make reference to a classic ‘70s Faberge TV commercial featuring sudsy-headed women telling “two friends.” And then, “they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on….”

While that commercial is probably the easiest way to illustrate the concept of viral marketing, it's not the most helpful example because: (1) most of us obviously can't afford to produce a TV commercial, and (2) now, with the Internet, and email in particular, you can tell more people about something faster than good-old-fashioned word of mouth.

Email: the Ideal Viral Marketing Tool

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynda Partner is CEO of GotMarketing, provider of self-serve email marketing software. She can be reached gotceo@gotmarketing.com