Viral Marketing Made Easy

Stephen Yagielowicz
Regardless of the type of commercial operation you're running, a common denominator is the need to attract an audience and successfully present a marketing message.

Advertising methods and messages so frequently bombard consumers that reaching through the background haze of informational overload and being able to grab their attention is becoming more and more challenging. But today's technology presents a seductive solution: viral marketing.

The premise is simple; with an audience being the base requirement, what better way of developing a wider base than by publishing content that is so compelling that viewers wish to share it? After all, nothing is better than a positive word-of-mouth recommendation from a trusted source. Then, once you have that level of quality of content available, make it simple for viewers to share it by offering them easy mechanisms and tools, and help the process along by placing your content in places where it will be shared. Think of it as using an army of affiliates that don't require a commission payment in order to spread your links.

A Few Marketing Tips
How? Here are a few ways in which you can use the power of viral marketing to increase traffic to your website, brand your offering and pave the way to easier sales:

Recommend us. Perhaps the original (and still quite effective) online viral marketing technique is the addition of a "recommend us to a friend" link on your website that can enable word-of-mouth advertising without any cost except for a few minutes of coding and implementation work.

Basic systems will simply pop an email window while more sophisticated applications will incorporate polling and demographic information and also harvest email addresses for follow-on marketing mailings — providing that the visitor "opted-in" to your mail list. Regardless of the underlying technology and enhanced feature sets, it all comes down to the customer finding enough value in your material to tell a friend about it.

A quick note on the nature of adult. While many viral marketing techniques are fairly anonymous, email-based approaches are not usually anonymous in that the recipient's email address must be known to the sender and the sender's address revealed to the recipient. This may not be a problem for mainstream site operators where, for example, co-workers might freely share the latest golfing website to catch their eye; but relatively few guys will send their friends the latest "Cockeyed Creampies" link they stumbled upon. Still, it can cost nothing to implement a basic recommendation system; yet the fairly small traffic it will generate will be of a very high quality.

FHGs and other freebies. Affiliates are constantly clamoring for free hosted galleries and other content handouts, but smart sponsors also will market this material themselves, developing a conscious plan of action for freely distributing promotional content far and wide.

The basic thing to understand is that once you publish any adult material on the Internet today, it's out there forever, being posted, traded, collected and shared. If you take the big-picture view that your paysite's value lies in the fact that it is an aggregation point for all of your related content offerings (meaning that the customer can get all of Suzie's sets there together for one price) and that the individual content (photos, videos, stories, etc.) is simply "bait" to be used to draw in prospects, the process will become clearer. See, you won't really lose anything because once you publish your material, it's already "gone" — just accept that fact and move on to the "if you can't beat them, then join them" camp.

Don't leave the widespread sharing of your material to chance. Spamming isn't necessary, but if you can submit your galleries to every TGP/MGP and directory site on the planet, then upload the content to Usenet and every video and file sharing service that you can find, your seeds will be cast and you can wait for the harvest to roll in. That is, provided you have watermarked all of your content with your URL so that folks know where to come to get more.

While there are pros and cons to this approach, including the fact that some material is much more suited for these distribution methods, especially when you want it to be shared — and that there are legal implications for distributing adult content in this way — careful use of planning and resources can reap great benefits simply by helping others to give your wares away.

YouTube and beyond. The whole so-called "web 2.0" model is based on user-generated, aggregated and shared content, and it's a popular model, indeed. Peer-to-peer is no longer a unique identifier describing a transactional data process but simply "the way it is" for current-generation surfers — those kids who are in high school now and college-bound.

When making five-year forecasts, this "wave" of new prospects comes into play. But how will content marketers penetrate this demographic, and how will traffic brokers (affiliates) be able to reach this audience?

Visit MySpace, check out YouTube — millions of current and future prospects finding media that they enjoy enough to want to share with others. These people have something to say and blog about every topic under the sun. They also are excitement junkies with short attention spans who are perfectly willing to accept poor-quality short video clips, as long as the material it depicts is entertaining enough to make it worthwhile; and if it is, they'll tell all their friends about it. Show them something exciting, and they'll do the rest.

As an indication of the popularity of these outlets, John Edwards went so far as to announce his presidential candidacy on YouTube, eschewing traditional news outlets for a more modern approach to widespread content (information) sharing.

Participate in industry communities. Nothing can spread the word about you better than you can yourself. There are many message boards devoted to various aspects of the online adult industry and other market segments that provide a ready pool of B2B and B2C contacts and offer easy contact between members and direct advertising through your signature and profile files. The more you participate, the further your messages are seen, quoted and carried, picked up by search engines and archived forever.

For example, the website offers a professional gathering place for adult webmasters, content producers and providers, affiliates and sponsors and every other type of player in the business end of the adult industry. Its consumer-oriented sister site,, provides fan interaction and direct-to-consumer exposure opportunities, allowing marketers ample venues for carefully crafted "non-spam" viral campaigns.

Content that is ultra-compelling will always be shared far and wide, but sometimes a little encouragement can go a long way. Why not offer an incentive for visitors to email a friend about your site or viewers to repost video content, both on their own websites as well as on portals such as MySpace and YouTube, using an easy, direct link and even their own unique description?

A neat solution would be to offer a special zipped content pack or "secret download link" via email to those that pass along your viral content. You not only have a chance to do more targeted marketing with this "bonus" material, you collect email addresses as well.

Personality is always a plus. Now that you have those addresses, why not send a personal "thank you" to the visitor for spreading the word about your site or offer? When you reward site visitors for their participation, adding a personal touch helps to build a better bond, making the visitor feel as if they're "investing" in something worthwhile.

Voluminous Email
With the volume of email, both spam and legitimate, that most companies receive, replies to emails or form submissions can easily be missed or go unsent. By following up with a personal message, you strengthen relationships with customers that can encourage them to further spread your materials.

If you can tie your viral message into some pop culture current event, then the sky's the limit as far as how far and wide the message spreads.

A case in point is the infamous Britney Spears upskirt imagery. Sure enough, faster than you can say "Oops, I Did It Again," the tidal forces of mainstream media and web 2.0 converged to shoot Internet searches, blog posts, page views, entertainment television and pubescent teens through the roof. While I wouldn't advise capitalizing on any litigation-prone celebrities, there are times when a tasteful tie-in can ride on top of the latest media craze or seasonal event.

Today's viewers are increasingly savvy and tend to hold blatant advertising in disdain, but an ad that is funny, exciting or really "extreme" in one form or another, will become shared despite the fact that it is an ad. Beyond this, "soft" marketing approaches will gain even more traction and perhaps increasingly so as the advertising content decreases.

Such is the case with most of the truly successful viral campaigns. They manage to blur the lines between advertising and entertainment while offering some type of benefit to the viewer, either through an emotional reaction such as joy or outrage that compels them to want to share their viral find with others, or through receipt of an incentive for viewing or furthering the message.

Reading through these tips and techniques, you can see that viral marketing can take on many meanings and encompass everything from multimillion-dollar campaigns to free initiatives requiring only a webmaster's time. There's a lot of material here that scratches a lot of surfaces; hopefully something here will inspire you to create your next campaign.