5 Things People Forget About Viral Marketing

This is a Guest Post by Josh Ledgard (@evolvingwe), Co -Founder of KickoffLabs and SiftSocial

If you sell something your dream is that one day each of your customers will bring you two more referrals.  In fact, any number of successful referrals on an average greater than 1 would be defined as "going viral". Some content, like a dad shooting his daughters laptop on youtube, (It's OK, I'll wait for you to come back) is naturally viral without any assistance.

But the rest of us have to grease the wheels a bit to increase our viral coefficient via customer referrals. Here are 5 tips that most people forget.

Tip #1: ASK for referrals

And I don't mean slapping Facebook and Twitter buttons on your site.

Here are a few examples:

  1. After successful customer support interactions say "Your welcome! Would you mind telling 5 or 500 more of your friends about the service you received with us!"
  2. Once someone is a satisfied customer ask them to put a link to your site on theirs.
  3. Ask for a quote about your service you can put on your web site. You can never have too much social proof.
  4. Include a personal message about your goals and how they can help. For example (see below) 

Tip #2: Use email

Being viral isn't limited to online social networks. Email was the first, and still is most widely read, social network. Don't leave it out of your social campaigns. In drip emails for new customers you should tack it onto the customers "next steps". We send an email that includes 3 things customers can do to improve their web sites… then we ask them to help us out, a bit of give and take, by telling their friends about us.  If it's worth putting in your blog it's probably worth sending out an email or at least linking in your newsletter.

Tip #3: Seed the virus

When you have something worth sharing you need to leverage your first order connections. I generally scan my LinkedIn contacts (they have some great filtering) to look for people I think might be most interested in what I have to say. I send them the link with a SHORT personal message and remind them to share it if they think it's worthy.

Tip #4: Target niche communities

The world doesn't revolve around Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Chances are that your product serves a customer that spends more time in a dedicated niche community. Find out where that is and seed the your campaign there.  Become a member of that community, start answering questions, commenting, and build up a good reputation as an expert… someone that they would want to share and buy from. This group will become your influencers that help push your campaign into the "mainstream" social networks.

Tip #5: Give people an incentive to share and convert

I'm not sure why people just focus on "likes". Skip it. Run a contest or incentive program that drives conversions.  Netflix knew how important this was. For years they used their envelope real estate to remind you that you'd get $10 off for every friend you referred that actually signed up. Several of our customers have run VERY successful lotteries where every customer referral is a ticket entered.


It used to be that just adding a "like" button to your content, product, or service was enough. Now it's not. You've got to stand out. Stand out by taking a more personal approach, seeding growth, leveraging email as well as niche communities, and finding just the right level of incentive to get people to convert.

About: Josh Ledgard (@evolvingwe), is the Co -Founder of KickoffLabs, an online service that enables you to make a stunning signup page in 60 seconds, and  SiftSocial, a priority inbox for Social Media. (Coming Soon)