opinion

Viral Marketing Mistakes

Joe D

Viral marketing campaigns are consistently proving ineffective in delivering and sustaining a brand over time, due mainly to misdirected tactics, and despite the growing popularity of such social media sites as MySpace and You Tube. Viral marketing efforts are failing to effectively reach the mass audiences advertisers have anticipated, according to JupiterResearch.

Reports supported by JupiterResearch investigations reveal that only 15 percent of businesses achieved the goal of prompting consumers to promote their messages for them, and the ‘send this message to a friend’ is the most important element in achieving viral success.

While targeting ‘influentials’ has been the most popular technique to stimulate viral behavior, viral marketers are expected to significantly decrease use of this tactic as viral marketing strategies and techniques continue to be refined. In a recent post on branding I discussed the importance of identifying and focusing on your target group, and that group is not always the obvious one or even the ultimate group, just the important one in spurring and achieving brand adoption and recognition, and the motivating trigger in motivating the forwarding vital to your campaign.

While social media sites eliciting user generated content would seem to provide a perfect vehicle for viral marketing campaigns, those initiating the campaigns must dig deeper to understand the tendencies of the appropriate audiences. The social media participants are fickle and dynamic and isolating your target group within the site strata is challenging.

"Viral marketers often send one campaign to all influentials," explained Emily Riley, an Analyst at JupiterResearch. "Different influential groups not only respond very differently to advertising campaigns, but also influence others in very different ways."

Relatively older online users are actually more likely than are relatively younger users to forward advertising messages to friends or tell friends about ads. Although young audiences show increased use of social sites, relatively older audiences show increased use of e-mail, watch some video, and should be absolutely incorporated into viral marketing campaigns - especially because they are the traditional target audiences for brands or products. Here again, just as McDonalds targets families to end up with the key teen demographic and ends up with both, targeting teens may have proved ineffective in directly winning their patronage, and certainly families wouldn’t have responded to teen focused marketing.

"There are definitely pitfalls associated with the social networking sites. While these sites may appear to be the most effective manner of delivering a message regardless of brand appropriateness, by failing to truly understand the audience, viral marketers stand to alienate as many consumers as they interest," said David Schatsky, President of JupiterResearch.

"Advertisers should be cognizant of the fact that attempts to reach outside their brand images or target demographics often end up looking like they are trying too hard."

In today’s economy, appearing to try too hard is the kiss of death, as it speaks to desperation. Take time with your marketing plan; it must appear focused and on message, flawless and comfortable in execution, positive and motivating, stable and secure.

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