Definition

viral marketing

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: IT channel sales and marketing strategy for the digital era

On the Internet, viral marketing is any marketing technique that induces Web sites or users to pass on a marketing message to other sites or users, creating a potentially exponential growth in the message's visibility and effect. One example of successful viral marketing is Hotmail, a company, now owned by Microsoft, that promotes its service and its own advertisers' messages in every user's e-mail notes.

Some marketing people prefer terms other than viral marketing. In his popular e-mail newsletter about selling on the Web, John Audette asked readers to suggest alternatives, including other terms in current use. Among those suggested have been:

avalanche marketing
buzz marketing
cascading style marketing
centrifugal marketing
exponential marketing
fission marketing
grass roots marketing
organic marketing
propogation marketing
referral marketing (borrowing a term long used in marketing prior to the Web)
ripple marketing
self-perpetuation marketing
self-propogation marketing
wildfire marketing

One reader suggested word of mouse

 

This was last updated in March 2007

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Thanks for sharing such a nice informative post about viral marketing. I appreciate your hard work. I think it will be helpful to all SEO guys.
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Note: While viral marketing can be helpful for SEO... the bad news is that studies show that most viral messages lay unread. When something goes 'viral', people feel social pressure to pass it on- but mostly neglect to read it.
So, if you're aiming for a specific response from online marketing, I'm sorry to say that the action you were hoping for may not happen if your content went viral. 
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I'm going to add in something that has yet to be said. You CANNOT plan to create a viral piece of content or viral marketing effort. The virality of information and messaging is subject DIRECTLY to the audience and how it sees, understands, shares and promotes this content. The major failing of any and all marketing departments and C-suite executives is that they request a viral video or viral image or viral tweet to help build the brand or promote an event. It. DOESN'T. WORK. YOU. CAN'T. DO. IT. If there were a true formula for creating viral content, it would be worth BILLIONS and only the most successful companies would own the patent on the strategy and methodology. Viral just happens and you thank your stars if it happens for your content or message. Now move along. Real marketing takes hard work and thoughtfulness.
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We respectfully disagree. While you can't guarantee a piece of content will go viral, you can certainly build in viral characteristics that dramatically improve your odds. At Viral Shot, we have created numerous pieces of content for clients that have gained significant traction, generated thousands of leads and helped spread brand awareness. We do have a fairly simple formula that works very well.
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