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What is viral marketing — and how online businesses can do it effectively

**Definition:**Viral marketing describes the technique and natural occurence of web users effectively marketing on behalf of a business by sharing a campaign or any form of online media. Successful viral marketing campaigns are often extremely cost effective and can vault an online business into prominence.

How online stores successfully execute viral marketing campaigns

Successful viral marketing focuses on psychology over selling. Knowing why people share information is more valuable than trying to convince them to buy a product. It's also important to have an understanding of how and why users are communicating with each other.

Facebook users share content 47.5 billion times each day, while Twitter users average 208 followers each — that's 208 people who see what they share and can be interested enough to retweet to their followers.

In order to devise a successful viral marketing campaign, an ecommerce company must:

  • Know their audience: Understanding what the audiences cares about will tell companies what content to create; users will be more likely to share something related to their interests. For instance, a Fresno, California, firefighter named Cory Kalanick filmed his rescue of a kitten with a GoPro HD Hero3 camera attached to his helmet. According to Entrepreneur, the video garnered 1.5 million views on YouTube before GoPro found it. When the company made a few edits, added its logo and put the final result on its own YouTube page, views rose to 5 million. The video was so successful because it focused on what consumers already care about - there is a long-running joke that the Internet is obsessed with cats. It also taps into their emotions, drawing sympathy, compassion and a bit of self-insertion. Because of the video's first-person viewpoint, viewers experience the heroism involved in saving an innocent kitten.

  • **Engage viewer emotions:**Users are most likely to share content associated with positive emotions, such as joy and awe. Users were least likely to share things that inspired sadness, but this doesn't mean that every piece of marketing has to be uplifting. The strength of an emotion is the key factor, Berger said in a separate conversation with Entrepreneur.

  • Make content easy to share: Hotmail nailed this technique. Its message went out every time a user sent an email, something they had already planned to do. Also, the advertising was subtle yet detailed, so it didn't overshadow the intent of the original email. If your marketing content is on a social media website, keep it quick. Don't overload readers with extensive text; instead, keep the message easy to scan. Videos should be short in length and small in file size, ensuring they don't violate any posting restrictions. If the content is posted on the company site, use code or plugins to allow people to post the information directly to their social media profiles.

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