What is Viral Marketing?

Recently you hear a lot about viral marketing, but how well is it understood? First of all I'm assuming it is not some kind of viral infection that we all seem to want to catch; please let me be infected with thousands of hits to my website. It's probably not like a computer virus that the folks at Symantec want to eradicate, but oddly viral marketing has attributes of both an infection and a computer virus. The definition of viral according to the American Heritage Dictionary is " Of, relating to, or caused by a virus". Well, maybe we internet marketing folks are taking liberties when it comes to defining our marketing methodologies, but it wouldn't sound nearly as cool if I called viral marketing something like "multiple methods of complementary marketing". So I'm willing to live with the term "Viral Marketing" if you are.

If we can agree that viral marketing like an infection or a computer virus can get stronger, thus expanding over time then the rest of this article will focus on marketing techniques that have those attributes. The reason most of got into this type of business is that we believed that getting paid by the hour or a salary was pretty limiting, and that our internet business had the potential to grow virally. Now there are a lot of internet money making opportunities out there that I would not consider to be viral marketing including things like paid to take surveys, paid to read, paid to click, and whatever other methods where you get paid directly for the time you put into it. Now your back to working for someone else and all the limitations associated with getting paid by the hour.

So what types of business opportunities or marketing techniques qualify as truly viral. Let's start with different types of businesses:

Multi Level Marketing (MLM) companies - companies like Shaklee, Amway, Usana, and the list goes on and on. They are viral in that everyone you recruit has the ability to recruit many people under them, and you share in the profits of the whole team. Great concept, but doesn't always pan out if your downline isn't very active.

Affiliate Business Opportunities - Now probably everyone will disagree with me, but many of the affiliate business opportunities share the same characteristics of an MLM. Usually you profit from multiple levels of downlines, those that you refer and their own referrals. There are literally thousands of affiliate business opportunities out there like the Free Store Club, DealDotCom, or MyPowerMall, just to name a few.

Well it doesn't do much good to have a viral business without some kind of viral marketing tools that also expand their capacity to generate traffic and ultimately income over time. The rest of this article will focus on my favorite viral marketing tools. Here are some that I use:

List builders - We are talking about email marketing here, where the intent is to build your list of people that you can solicit or advertise too. A couple that I use include YourLuckyList and ListJoe; these two are slightly different, but the idea is that your recruiting efforts are focused on building a list of people that you can email on a periodic basis. Of course you can build your own list without one of these programs. As your list grows you are reaching out to an ever expanding audience, and some of these programs offer multiple levels of referrals that make them really viral.

Writing Articles - One of the great things about writing articles is that they have a long half life, meaning they can help you get traffic to your website for years, and they get picked up by the search engines creating back links to your website, improving your search engine rankings. It is clear that writing articles is a true viral marketing method and it is free.

Downline Builders - I wrote an article on downline builders recently because they are a truly viral marketing technique because they can expand your presence exponentially. As people sign-up for the downline builder they will often become part of your downline. Advertise one good downline builder and you have the potential to get hundreds of referrals in multiple programs. This is much more efficient that promoting each marketing tool on an individual basis. My primary downline builder is Vital Viral and I have referrals 4 levels deep. So instead of promoting traffic exchanges, list builders, and other marketing tools with separate advertisements, consider using a downline builder for its viral marketing characteristics.

Without getting into a lot of detail I want to mention a few other marketing tools that have those viral characteristics that have been discussed:

* Portals like LinkScout
* Website Directories
* Web Forums
* Traffic Exchanges
* Viral sites like Free Viral
* Networking groups like LinkReferral or Reality Networkers

In my opinion for you to experience the real benefits of viral marketing you need to begin utilizing multiple marketing channels, and not get caught up in programs that focus on getting paid by the hour, but instead focus on those programs that can expand as you refer others. Ultimately this results in more traffic, better search engine placement because your site is referenced many times, and ultimately more cash in your pocket.

Visit Online Business Resources for more information.

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