A4 Mobile Viral Marketing

Part of a series of Top 10 Branding/Pre-Sales Mobile Marketing Strategies

The Mobile Social Media Gift Economy

Before crafting a viral marketing strategy, it’s important for you to understand the nature of the mobile social media gift economy. Many organizations offer free products or services online, and in many cases it’s just free information. The intent is to provide something for free with the expectation that it could lead to an actual sale in the future.

Offering something of value for free could have a number of benefits.

  •       Drive higher traffic levels to your blogs, websites, mobile apps or social media sites, fulfilling the basic marketing tenets of both reach (exposing the largest number of people to your products) and frequency (repeating the information often enough for them to assimilate your branding and marketing messages).
  •        Improve your brand presence in the marketplace and instill trust in potential           clients.
  •        Provide an opportunity for prospects to try out your product or service before deciding whether or not they want to buy it.[i]

For example, someone selling an online book might consider giving away a free chapter or a free summary article. Prospects that read the free chapter could then make an informed decision about purchasing the book. Effective strategies incorporate a close connection between the free offering and fee offering.[ii]

Fee Offering/Type of Firm

Potential Free Offering

Small business consulting service A ten‑minute free consultation
Research report Highlights of the research
Stock brokerage firm Investment newsletter
Automobile dealer Used car valuation service

These free offerings benefit both the consumer and the company. This initial touchpoint assists in laying the foundation of moving prospects through the sales cycle – awareness, liking, preference and product purchase. As part of your mobile marketing strategy, determine whether or not you could make free offers to achieve some of the objectives described above. This free offer could then be made available on your website, mobile website, social media sites and mobile app. Providing utility to your stakeholders is key.

Valuable Resource

Valuable Mobile Marketing and Commerce Resources: Subscribe to Mobile Marketer Daily[iii] to keep abreast of the latest mobile marketing trends and subscribe to Mobile Commerce Daily[iv] to keep abreast of the latest m-commerce trends – great examples of the gift economy in action.

There are many innovative examples of supporting the gift economy and the best examples are ones where there is a close tie between the freebie and the organization’s offering. A simple example mentioned earlier is an app that provides information on where the nearest public washroom is, brought to you of course by Charmin, the toilet paper people.

The key to a successful freebie is choosing something that helps to attract your target market. A simple example is a bank that offers a free mortgage calculator. Homeowners who are about to refinance their homes or first-time buyers who are about to purchase their first home will likely only use this calculator. This is a direct hit on the target market of the bank’s mortgage division.

Another example of a free offer could be in the form of a limited usage trial. For example, a translation service could offer free translations for up to one page of content, but anything more than that would have to be paid for. Making this type of a free offer has another advantage; customers get to sample your work and make an assessment of the quality of your work. The downside is potentially wasting time on work that does not lead to follow‑on paid work.

What types of free offers are not likely to be effective? Imagine a free offer of a t-shirt for everyone who downloads your mobile app. You will probably get thousands of people taking you up on your offer, but most of them will likely never become one of your paying customers. In this case you are attracting people that are not part of your target market, which doesn’t make sense.

Another free offer that is worth discussing was first mentioned in my book Strategic Internet Marketing published in the mid‑nineties.[v] It was an interesting free offer from Crestar Bank. They introduced a figure called Dr. Finance who would answer any question about mortgages, loans, investments, insurance and much more. There was absolutely no charge for Dr. Finance’s services.

In a recent search however, there appears to be no evidence of free help from Dr. Finance. The benefit they obtained from this free offer likely did not outweigh the costs, employee time and risk involved in providing this consultation service, not to mention queries from countries they didn’t even serve.

Perhaps Crestar would have been more successful if its experts wrote several articles for distribution as an electronic booklet to all that requested it. Although the initial workload may have been significant, the booklet could then be redistributed several thousand times with very little ongoing cost or effort required.

Gift Economy Tactical Tips

The examples above lead us to some specific tactics that will improve your likelihood of success. Select a free offer that:

  •       Will be of direct interest to your target market
  •       Will not be of any interest to people that are not part of your target market
  •       May require some effort up front, but minimal effort on an ongoing basis, and
  •       Can be provided to thousands or millions of people, but ideally with a zero incremental cost for each additional person that requests it.

This advice should help you select a free offer that will fit into the mobile social media gift economy and provide your company with business benefits on an ongoing basis.

Challenge Question

Gift Economy Strategies: Are there free giveaways that your company could offer – products, services or information – that would give you an innovative competitive edge and help you achieve your branding, marketing, sales and/or viral marketing objectives?

Mobile Viral Marketing

“Viral marketing, viral advertising or marketing buzz are buzzwords referring to marketing techniques that use pre‑existing social networks and other technologies to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of viruses or computer viruses… It can be delivered by word of mouth or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet and mobile networks.[1]

Viral marketing may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, branded software, images, text messages, e‑mail messages or web pages… the creative nature of viral marketing enables ‘endless amount of potential forms and vehicles the messages can utilize for transmission’ including mobile devices.”[1]

Mobile marketing using techniques such as free offers via e‑mail, text and/or mobile apps can be used to achieve viral marketing impact. Let’s consider some examples to bring this concept to life.

IKEA uploaded furniture showroom photos on their Facebook page and gave away items to the first person who tagged himself/herself on any of the items in the photos. Photo tagging created a viral effect, reaching thousands of friends of friends who tagged the photos, all hoping to get free IKEA furniture.

Allure magazine partnered with its advertisers and ran a QR code marketing campaign. By offering up $725,000 in free merchandise they were able to generate viral marketing success with half a million scans, 25,000 registered customers and a great deal of branding visibility.[1]

QR code extrait 3Watch the Video: Viral Marketing Innovation – TNT: A great example from  Belgium – creating a staged event to generate viral marketing excitement.[1]   <goo.gl/FwaFg> (Duration: two minutes)


extrait 3 qr code 2Watch the Video: SMS Social Media Marketing: Integrating SMS text marketing with social media marketing can help you achieve viral marketing impact.[1] <goo.gl/kEVLa> (Duration: four minutes)

[i] Adapted from content written by Jay Linden for the book by Tom Vassos, Strategic Internet Marketing (Indianapolis: Macmillan Publishing, 1996).

[ii] Tom Vassos, Strategic Internet Marketing (Indianapolis: Macmillan Publishing, 1996).

[iii] “Subscribe to Mobile Marketer newsletters for free.” Mobile Marketer. Accessed November 4, 2012. http://www.mobilemarketer.com/newsletter.

[iv] Dan Butcher. “News Corp.’s Clear Channel, GE unveil mobile-optimized storefronts.” Mobile Commerce Daily. March 11, 2010. Accessed November 4, 2012. http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/news.

[v] Tom Vassos, Strategic Internet Marketing (Indianapolis: Macmillan Publishing, 1996).


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