Saturday, 30 April 2011

Leveraging social media to kickstart Viral Marketing Campaign

Malcolm Gladwell in his book, "The Tipping Point" lists down some extremely relevant and meaningful insights about consumers that firms can leverage to spread Word of Mouth for their new initiatives or product launches. He talks about the following 3 forces that decide the fate of a successful Viral Marketing Campaign,

1. Law of the Few
2. Stickiness Factor
3. Power of Context

Law of the Few
There are 3 kinds of people who can significantly contribute to spreading Word of Mouth epidemic for any viral marketing campaign
i) Connectors: These are the charismatic individuals who are connected to a large number of people by virtue of their social skills, varied interests and job profile. They have no inhibitions in creating 'weak links' with a lot of people as opposed to creating strong bonds with a select friends that most of us are predisposed to. Such people can be easily identified by a careful analysis of their profiles on social networking sites.

ii)Mavens: These are knowledge gatherers whose sole objective is to garner elaborate information about consumer products and service professionals and use this knowledge to help people. These are the experts who comment on forums to give feedback about a latest mobile phone. These are the ones you rely on when you want to know the best restaurant in your vicinity. They act as the touchpoints for picking up information about a viral campaign and passing it on to connectors to spread it further.

iii)Senders: These are people with a charismatic personality and extremely high convincing power which they can leverage to sell any idea in their friend circle. These are the innovators who try out a new apparel brand and carry it off with such confidence so as to trigger a fashion trend. If they like a book, they'll talk about it with so much passion and present the prologue to you in such an exciting manner that you'll find it irresistible to read.

Social marketing sites such as Facebook/ Twitter can be utilized to identify a handful of the above 3 types of people who can help a great deal in kick-starting a viral marketing campaign.

Stickiness Factor
Once the Connectors/Mavens/Senders have initiated word of mouth for your campaign its fate is decided by how sticky is the communication message. The following leads can help make a message stick to the minds of the target audience,
i) Involvement: If the communication can drive participants into taking an action it'll work wonders in enhancing its stickiness. The most common strategy used by firms is coupons/labels camouflaged in select samples of products which consumers can collect to win exciting prizes. However, it has lost the novelty factor and innovative ways of engaging the consumer might work better.

ii)Relevance in personal lives: The closer a communication message is to a consumer's personal life, the more likely it is to stick.   This is where clearly defining the target audience and customizing the communication to cater to an unmet need of that group becomes crucial. For instance, for an e-commerce website, a clip of  long queues in super-markets or long traffic jams while traveling to buy grocery, might strike cord with young couples who would appreciate any extra time they can save for their weekends, if they were to switch to e-commerce mode of shopping.

iii) Repeat: The message needs to be repeated an optimum number of times before it sticks to our mind. It varies depending on the profile of consumers as well as the product. The right way to go about it is to test the concept on a few consumers and test satisfaction levels after every iteration. In most cases, interest would go up till 3-4 iterations and then it'll start dropping.

Power of context
Environmental factors decide whether an epidemic would remain constrained to a city or will it become a national phenomenon. For instance, most of the fashion trends emerge with the basic desire of imitating one's role models if not by professional achievements, at least by wearing similar outfits or sporting a similar hairstyle. It is hard to manipulate context for a viral campaign but you can definitely learn from it and tailor your campaign to fit well in context.

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