Why I’m a Bit Sick of Viral Marketing

31 03 2009

 

Viral marketing is the idea that you can harness social networks or other communications channels to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve product sales using a ‘viral ‘ process  that mimics the spread of infection.  The origins of the idea are probably linked to the concept of computer viruses that spread from machine to machine seemingly unaided.

As digital PR specialists we will be asked by clients to assist them with on line viral marketing.  It is a mistake to enter into a campaign with viral marketing as the central feature.  That is not to say it is impossible to deliver, but it is exceptionally difficult.  To imply that a piece of content such as an image or a video clip will achieve viral status at the outset of a campaign is a bit like guaranteeing that the campaign will be of national award winning quality before you have even come up with the ideas. 

In any case I prefer the idea of internet memes to the ‘viral’ concept.  It is a better description and it carries more explanation which gives as a better chance of providing clients with clear explanation and managing expectations.  

Richard Dawkins, the author of the ‘God Delusion’ originally came up with the term ‘meme’ in a book published in the mid seventies called ‘The Selfish Gene’.  It was coined to describe how Darwinian principles could explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena like fashion, music, catch-phrases, architectural styles and even beliefs.  Dawkins argued that memes propagate themselves in societies in a way that is similar to the behaviour of a gene or virus.  The meme is cultural unit or idea that spreads rapidly.  The term has gained greater currency with the growth of the internet.  

Although we can’t eliminate the human element in propogating the spread we can’t control or guarantee it.  We therefore should not claim we can deliver it in any quantifiable sense.

This article is adapted from a more in depth piece in the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ published this week and available  from Amazon.

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Sharing the Hyper Love

30 03 2009

heart-chainIf you want people to link to your content you need to start with good content.  You should also have clear and relevant outbound links from your site.   A persuasive argument for other sites to link to yours is that you have already linked to theirs – it’s called link love. Reciprocal linking works well but not all sites are of equal value.  It stands to reason that if you can engineer a reciprocal link from a site that ranks highly on Google that will deliver more than a link from a site that doesn’t.   An effective linking building strategy involves generating links that will drive traffic.

You should avoid working with companies that offer to create multiple false links; these are known as link farms and this is a form of ‘black hat’ search engine optimisation. Not only is this unethical but it is one of the best ways to get Google to eliminate your site or relevant content from their databases altogether.    By picking a few good sites, emailing them individually with details of exactly what you can offer and where you think a link might fit in with their existing content, you will not only get a greater response rate, but the links you get are sure to be far more valuable.

Finally do not treat the social web as if it exists in isolation.  One of the best ways of building interest in your content and persuading people to link their content yours is to have conversations and interaction in the real world.  Issue press notices about your content and send them to off line as well as on line media. Talk to as many people as you can about what you are doing.  Send links to interested parties in an email or DM them through a social network  – make sure they are likely to be interested, don’t spam them.  Spread the word, but make sure its relevant.  

This article is adapted from a more in depth piece in the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ published this week and available  from Amazon.





Book update: one week to publication

27 03 2009

This blog is a companion blog to the book “Public Relations and the Social Web”. It will be published in the UK by Kogan Page one week  from today on April 3rd and is available now to pre-order direct from the publisher or from Amazon.   It was at number 3 in the Public Relations section on Amazon this morning based on pre-orders and although not officially available I know some people have taken delivery of the book (it’s not me honestly!).  The book will be published in the US in May.





Follow Friday Five #6

27 03 2009

Five cool blogs for you all to follow this Friday.  As usual there is a mix – some are mega blogs, others are small, but perfectly formed.  Also following the format of Follow Friday Fives there is a bit of PR, some social media and a smattering of politics too. 

1. Mashable  Founded by Pete Cashmore it’s the world’s largest blog focused exclusively on web 2.0 and social networking news. Reviews new web sites,  publishes breaking news and a firm favourite with tech-savvy early adopters.

2. Liberal Democrat Voice  This week’s politics is from the UK Libdem party, in the news this week as contributor and Head of Innovations for the party makes a move to PR firm Mandate.

3. Brendan Cooper your friendly neighbourhood social media strategist Brendan is a big contributor to the social media space. This week he’s not happy with the BBC and their use of comment lifted from the blogosphere without linking back. Couldn’t agree more Brendan.

4. Web Strategy by Jeremiah To say that Jeremiah Owyang’s blog is content rich is the understatement of the week.  His day job is Web Strategist for Forrester so he know’s his stuff.

5. Rock Star PR  The entertaining if infrequent ramblings of Wolfstar’s young turk Jed Hallam.  Message to Jed; blog more.

Five fresh ingredients.  Time to to dig in.





Link Building the New Cross Promotion

26 03 2009

For twenty years or more the marketing industry has been obsessed with the idea of integration.  The nature of the internet is such that if we don’t integrate our online communications may for ever languish in some digital backwater.  

The idea of a link or hyperlink is central to the concept of the world wide web.  If we want to increase traffic to our online content then we need to find ways of creating links that will take people to it.  You need to understand how links work and build linking strategies into your digital PR programmes.  You can if you choose, work with specialists in this area, but if budgets don’t allow there are some basics that you can learn and should implement. 

Unless you have used a search engine, following a link is one of the most common ways to find new content on the web.  A link suggests authority not just in the Technorati sense but in the literal sense.  If a site you trust offers to lead you somewhere for more information you are more likely to have a look.   Link building is about quantity, but for this reason it is also clearly about quality.  Links also elevate your Google rankings. Search engines give sites with good genuine links a higher ranking. 

In many senses the social web is about community and by having links to other places you are playing your part in the community. Effective and appropriate linking can make you part of a powerful network.





Media Should Say No To Max

24 03 2009

It is time for the British media to end their unholy alliance with the publicist Max Clifford.  Max plies his trade by doing deals and peddling untruths, he says so himself and I have witnessed it at first hand.  

If Max wants to be part of the story then his own integrity should come under press scrutiny.  During the sad demise of Jade Goody he was ever present but I have never seen him asked or answering the question as to whether his normally substantial fees have gone towards Jade’s estate or the future of her family.

The public relations industry has never been particularly celebrated for its ethics.  In fact we PR people are right up there with politicians and journalists in terms of how our honesty is often perceived.  To some extent we only have ourselves to blame and in part it is because we allow the line between Public Relations advisers and publicists to become blurred.  Public Relations is a strategic marketing discipline, whereas publicity is a rather more straightforward activity that more readily accepts compromise.  In some cases both publicists and journalists have gone along with the old maxim to never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  

At the heart of the social web is the concept of transparency. The access that it affords should mean we are at the beginning of the end for publicists like Clifford.





Pre-release copies available

23 03 2009

Although not officially released for another 10 days or so, advance copies of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (the book to which this blog is a companion) are available for immediate delivery from Amazon.








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