home about contact internet marketing book twitter business book archives subscribe

How Freelancers Can Leverage Viral Marketing


Viral marketing isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s been used since before the Internet existed, but the online world makes it far easier to spread ideas. It’s a method that can benefit freelancers.

What is viral marketing? In a nutshell, it’s any method of promoting a concept (message, product or “content”) in a manner that allows it to be self-propagating, or not far from it.

Maki of DoshDosh has written extensively about viral marketing in general, and had a simple, to-the-point explanation of viral marketing in the online world:

Your message is the virus. The carriers are your audience.

Catch popular attention with your concept, and it’ll get passed on by others who want to share it.

So how do you get people’s attention and how does this apply to freelancers? What are good formats for viral content, and how do you even produce viral content?

How Do You Get Viral Attention?
There are several ways that you can get readers/ viewers/ listeners to propagate viral content.

  1. Be exclusive, at least initially. Allowing others to be part of an exclusive group will often give people an incentive to talk about you or your message.
  2. Employ an element of surprise. Uniqueness of idea isn’t always enough. Novelty does work, but interest will taper off faster if the idea is too novel and otherwise lacking value. For example, LisaNova, an online comedian, had the novel idea of free video collabcharacters. Unfortunately, many people think she was serious, and from that viewpoint, her approach is far too annoying.
  3. Trip emotional triggers: Surprise, joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust.
  4. Be targeted. If your viral content is aimed at or about current online influencers, it’s potentially more viral. They’ll start the conversation for you – whether to praise or criticize – and their influencees will carry on the conversation.
  5. Promote your campaigns. For a viral marketing campaign to work, you have to get enough word of mouth from other people. Start with willing colleagues, and maybe they’ll have their own colleagues that’ll tip the viral effect. Use microblogging services (e.g., Twitter) and guest articles. All this employs the idea of Six Degrees of Separation and the concept that “word of mouth” is the fastest way in the world of communicating an idea – whether it’s in person, on the phone, or via some digital form such as IM/chat, email, microblogging or whatever.

What is a Good Format for Viral Content?
Viral messages get passed on through numerous mediums: verbally; through IM/ chat; Twitter or other microblogging services; an email; or websites that link to your digital content or embed it. So a viral effect can be achieve in a number of ways, and to facilitate that, viral content has to be easy to propagate. Here are a few forms of potentially viral content.

1. Video. Web video particularly seems to catch the attention of the online world. Some of the popular video series so far include:

  1. Ask a Ninja.
  2. You Suck at Photoshop.
  3. Will It Blend?
  4. Pepsi/ Coke + Mentos soda spray fountains.

All of these are catchy enough that they’ve been embedded on thousands of web pages, virally propagating interest in them. They’re all unique, but Will It Blend actually promotes a product – Blendtec’s commercial blender. In the video below, host Tom Dickson tests the Blendtec on golf balls.

The diet soda and mentos idea (below) is so easy to implement (and for the most part fun) that it spawned hundreds of similar videos.

According to a MarketingSherpa survey, web video in an ad can increase viewer response. Likewise, web video in general can be a very effective means of virally spreading a message, since the content is generally easily embedded into website and blog pages. Music videos can be especially effective. As Chris Brogan points out, musician Chris Blake created a ;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Leave a Comment