SXSW was a great time, as always. I saw a lot of great bands. Hung out at the Levi’s Fadar fort, saw a great Canadian music set at the Paradise on Saturday, saw MUSE and Metric on Friday at Stubb’s (did I mention Metric is maybe my favorite band?), and generally had a great time. An interesting find was a rapper named Twank Star. Really reminded me of Notorious BIG.
So, what makes SXSW viral. Wow…. what doesn’t make it viral. That list it too small. Let’s start with what makes it viral: free food, free music, phenomenal up and coming music, blogs & SiriusXMU exposing you to bands beforehand, the free parties that are impossible to get into unless you RSVP in advance, the new ventures that lanch and reinforce their product as the week goes on. It’s hard not to have some word spread into your ear about some band or some show.
The biggest takeaway is that everyone is OPEN to viral marketing at this event. This is probably one of the only events I know about that has such a large volume of people are overtly acceptable to being exposed to viral marketing. It’s a part of the SXSW culture.
So, if you want to launch your viral marketing product, go to an event where people are expecting it. Go where the cool people are. And give them stuff for free that they really want. Then, just maybe, they’ll talk about you. Good luck!
Ryan Pitylak here covering viral marketing for websites.
The question of whether your site, product, or service is inherently viral is an important one. Can you construct it so that it is? Well, in many cases the answer is yes, but it typically takes some thinking through before it can become viral. The incentive really needs to be there for someone to tell their friend, and the “payment” needs to be something other than money. For example, your experience with the service needs to get better when you have more people within your network using it. Otherwise, people don’t really care about telling their friends unless they’re the few who tell everyone. Getting to those people can be challenging, and although that’s important to get initial traction for your business, I would argue that you need more mass appeal to reach a “tipping point”.
- Ryan Pitylak
Word of mouth marketing is very powerful. Unfortunately, it works in a negative way more powerfully than it does in a positive way. I’ve heard that every upset person will tell 8 people about their bad experience, whereas a happy person may only tell 1 person. That effectively means that you better provide good service and have a great product.
Pete Blackshaw asks some good questions that any company seeking to perform viral marketing should address:
- Are we nurturing or compromising the integrity of trusted consumer-to-consumer conversations? Are marketer-designed word-of-mouth programs helping or hurting?
- Are we sufficiently transparent in the way we message with consumers in the so-called “trust zone”? If we’re not, what’s the risk and associated cost?
- If we use incentives to drive word-of-mouth, are there important disclosure obligations? Should a more rigorous disclosure standard apply to younger consumers and/or their parents?
- Why even consider offering incentives to consumers when viral brand enthusiasts are already sitting in our corporate opt-in database? Maybe we just need to retool our segmentation models.
- If things go wrong, who’s accountable: the brand group, the agency, or the viral marketing firm?
Jure Leskovec and his associates write an article about the long tail and viral marketing. They present an analysis of a person-to-person recommendation network, consisting of 4 million people who made 16 million recommendations on half a million products.
They observe the propagation of recommendations and the cascade sizes, which we explain by a simple stochastic model. They analyze how user behavior varies within user communities defined by a recommendation network. Product purchases follow a ‘long tail’ where a significant share of purchases belongs to rarely sold items.
They establish how the recommendation network grows over time and how effective it is from the viewpoint of the sender and receiver of the recommendations.
While on average recommendations are not very effective at inducing purchases and do not spread very far, they present a model that successfully identifies communities, product, and pricing categories for which viral marketing seems to be very effective.