How to Use Twitter for Viral Marketing

Twitter is a great format for enacting a viral marketing campaign, which is all about spreading your message from person to person to person. A few examples of successful online and offline viral marketing campaigns include

  • Ponzi schemes: You get recruited, you recruit your friends, and they recruit theirs, until the whole thing collapses and the creator goes to jail.

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Producers encouraged viewers to videotape the show and pass the tapes on to friends.

  • Hotmail: Microsoft made Hotmail popular by putting a small ad for Hotmail in the e-mail footer of each message. Every time a Hotmail user sent an e-mail message, the tiny ad for the free e-mail program went with it.

  • Homestar Runner: These Flash movies have been an Internet hit for several years, thanks to a presence on iTunes as well as friends sharing videos with their friends.

  • Will It Blend? videos: These videos feature Tom Dickson of Blendtec, a heavy-duty blender manufacturer trying to blend various items, including a tiki torch, an iPhone, an Olympus digital camera, and several action figures, including a Chuck Norris figure. (The result? Everything blends . . . except Chuck Norris.)

You can’t always create a successful viral marketing campaign, no matter how hard you try. Many attempted campaigns have fallen flat on their faces. Many that started out as a cute little video for a few family members and friends turned out to be huge successes. Typically, commercial marketing campaigns don’t fare well, unless done properly. The Blendtec Will It Blend? videos are an example of a commercial marketing campaign that made it big, despite the commercial nature of the videos.

So, what creates a successful viral marketing campaign? Although following these tips can’t guarantee viral marketing success, just remember, chance favors the prepared mind:

  • Create a clear, easy-to-remember marketing message. Have one benefit or idea that you can sum up in a single tag line.

  • Create a Web site for your product or service. Get an easy-to-remember URL.

  • Put sharable items on your site and allow others to share those items, too. Create your own videos and encourage others to upload and share those videos by including Email This buttons and offering embed codes for blogs.

  • Upload your videos to YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-sharing sites. Create a publication schedule. Instead of uploading them all at the same time, trickle them in every week or two to build anticipation.

  • Send out links to your videos through Twitter, your blog, your e-mail newsletter, and anything else you can get your virtual hands on. Remember to use a URL shortener when you link to your videos so that you can track the performance of each channel you use to get the word out about your videos.

  • Create some offline collateral, as well. Hand out business cards that include your URL and tag line to every potential customer, and give several of your business cards to friends and family. Encourage them to hand your cards out to their friends, too. If your budget allows for it, get your business name, URL, and tag line printed on t-shirts and hats, and give them to people who’ll wear them in public.

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