MySpace is so June. Today's hot social media site is YouTube, and that means mainstream media's new favorite buzz-phrase is 'viral video'....

It seems like the marketing Holy Grail: a message that can spread literally the world in a matter of hours if not minutes, and for little or no cost. Now every company wants their own 'BowieChick' just waiting to freely endorse their product, and no doubt many companies will start adding a new objective to their marketing plans: Make it viral.
Cringing yet?
Of course the disclaimer that many companies don't take the time to read, is that they don't decide if a message/idea/video goes viral, the community does. And the other big disclaimer is that the community also decides WHAT message to make viral, it could be a glowing endorsement for your hot new app, or it could be a video that rips the idea to shreds.
But while 'viral marketing' is the sexy blonde that every company is courting, are they ignoring the equally hot brunette alone in the corner? What if they took the term 'viral marketing' literally, and made their marketing viral?
Spike has been trying to find an acceptable label for the movement that Fiskars and Brains on Fire created called The Fiskateers, that I blogged about here last week. He doesn't think you can call it marketing, but I say why not? In fact I'd call it viral marketing. Who spreads the marketing message here? The Fiskateers do. Are The Fiskateers passionate members that have an incentive in spreading their message to each other? Yep. Does that message spread quickly and easily among other community members? You betcha.
Sounds like viral marketing to me!
Or maybe, it sounds like what viral marketing SHOULD be. Instead of trying to catch lightning in a bottle with the next Subservient Chicken, why not give your community the power, ability, and incentive to spread your marketing to others? Instead of a 'one-hit viral wonder' on YouTube, why not instead build a movement founded by empowered marketers(also known as 'community members') that spread your message for you?
No it won't be easy, and no it won't happen overnight. But if you are brave enough to empower your empassioned community members by letting them share in the ownership of your brand, they will gladly spread your message for you, and more than likely, much effectively than you ever could.
Now THAT sounds like the marketing 'Holy Grail' to me. Or you could stick with YouTube and viral videos. Ask how that's working out for them.
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Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier