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Viral Marketing Case Studies

The main idea behind viral marketing is the following one - it has to be contagious, so the people spread the word about it. A good example is and of the early Internet days. People how found the job on the Internet shared the idea with others and sent their out of work friends the link.

Then came - they understood that they can not compete with the monsters, so they took a different approach. They decided to become online headhunters (people who search for the top executives). And that's what they decided to do - they offered $4000 incentive to anyone who recommended their friend or colleague. Naturally, people would get the commission only if the person they recommended agreed to switch the job. Just FYI - average headhunter's fee is $20000.

The good part of this story is that they collected millions of resumes and thousands of people got their commission. The bad part of the story is that it all happened during the DotCom bust and they are no longer in business.

Here is another example of viral marketing frequently used by many shareware companies. Shareware is a type of software that can be tried first. Anyone can download the evaluation version for about 2-4 weeks, test it and buy it later, if necessary. That by itself is a viral marketing technique. The game developers went further. They understood that if they offer online multiplayer games, people who buy the software would want to play the game with their friends. That turned out to be half true, since a lot of friends did download trial versions of the games, but they had limitations and very soon the person who had the unregistered version would be unable to continue. Then somebody aware of the viral marketing suggested the following idea - every time a person pays for the game registration, he or she gets 5 extra keys that make the game fully functional for the period of 90 days. The buyer can send these reg keys to anyone (or forget about them). It turned out that!

Almost 90% of people sent these temporary registrations to their friends. These people liked the game, and after playing it online for three months and having made a significant progress, almost half of them chose to pay for the registration rather than having to stop.

Here are the tips for creating online viral marketing campaign from

  • Offer an incentive. Viral marketing works best when a valuable and tangible incentive is offered.
  • Personalize the referral email. Response rates increase dramatically when users can see that a message is coming from a friend, not some company.
  • Track and analyze the results. As with any marketing campaign, tracking the results and optimizing performance over time is absolutely necessary.
  • Continually promote friendly referrals. Marketers who want to have their messages frequently forwarded should place a viral marketing offer in every relevant outgoing email message.

Relevant links:

    • Send personalized bulk mail
    • Extract both e-mail addresses and user names from the Web
    • Extract e-mail from "Temporary Internet Files"

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