Viral Marketing: Communicating in the Social Media Age

Viral marketing takes on ever new forms and dimensions. Social media platforms are flooded with influencers, guerilla campaigns and all sorts of messages, some of which in the end do not make any sense at all. How can you separate the wheat from the chaff?

Refugees of sensory overload

Cross-media advertising reaches the consumer almost everywhere on the customer journey – whether he wants it or not. In most cases, this happens very directly, for example through product suggestions in the sense of other-customers-bought-also or through interrupting pop-up advertisements and video sequences that completely distract from the actual topic and rather tear the customer out of his journey instead of picking him up. Yes, sometimes that borders on kidnapping. Attract attention, no matter at what price – this motto may have borne fruit in the past, when not every advertisement had the same blatant market tendencies. No wonder that more and more users wanted to evade direct marketing through television and radio and joined social media. Not to flee there, but to experience a new form of communication.

Social Media Communication

Communication via platforms (CpaaS), networks or mobile tools is mainly about conveying authenticity. The aim is to win the sensitive trust of the customers and to bind them long term. On the one hand, companies should advertise as individually as possible; on the other hand, they are not involved in individual sales conversations, but are confronted with a whole range of different preferences, lifestyles, motivations and everyday problems.

Read between the lines

Seeing the customer journey as a flowing movement with which customers browse the web is a first starting point that companies are increasingly considering. They don’t want to scare off the already over-excited mind, but rather intercept it at a point where interest is already aroused and the next step (e.g. the purchase decision) is just a simple click away. However, the tricky part is to arouse this interest as authentically, emotionally or inconspicuously as possible.

Viral marketing knows a few tricks. They always remind a bit of Stephen King’s IT. A clown with colorful balloons, who appeals to the child in us. Although the instinct defends itself against it, the curiosity ignites. And you are already in the (marketing) trap. In the face of an alleged friend, who remains anonymous for the most part thanks to Internet distance, one discovers behind all the masquerade, beautifully made-up facade and pompous cladding… the good old market crier.

And so the customers have learned not to accept every toy offered by strangers immediately, but to question the advertising messages.

Communication on one level

Thus it is an immense challenge for marketing departments to approach the social media with sufficient sensitivity but at least as much success.

Instead of emailing newsletters, tweeting takes place, hash tags are used instead of keywords, and always a topic that is current and different needs to be addressed. Not an easy task. The product or brand must be brought to a communication level with the customer. Within Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter and Co. this seems relatively simple. A direct channel between posting and commenting is always integrated. But unfortunately, that alone is not enough. The community deliberately makes it difficult for companies to successfully place advertising on social networks. If you are currently playing a playlist on Youtube, you will feel disturbed rather than attracted by the constant interruptions in advertising. It’s clicking the ad away as quickly as possibly and preferably never having to see it again.

So marketing communication doesn’t bounce off a completely annoyed customer, it makes sense to combine several communication tools and use them more subtly. Of course, the focus is still on the instant messaging options of the platforms themselves (comments, likes, sharing, etc.).

On the same level, however, external messaging services such as Whatsapp and Skype can also be linked. This can be used, for example, to initiate groups in which influencers exchange information with company representatives in an agile and mobile way. Away from social media, projects can thus be organized across the board without leaving the communication level of the living “you” culture.

What significance do SMS and email still have for social media campaigns?

The role of SMS and email communication in this area is unfortunately strongly underestimated, but here and there they are rediscovered. They are not really on the same level as the other channels and yet they offer promising advantages if they are cleverly integrated into the marketing campaign.

Apart from data protection guidelines, reliable accessibility, easy integration into software solutions and many other advantages, SMS and email score particularly well with one important – and very social – aspect: they create a basis of trust where other forms of messaging may not be effective enough.

Public WiFi Codes

An example: For your business you are running a VIP campaign on Facebook. Certain products are discounted on this day, drinks are ready, the community is invited and on the spot. Everyone has pulled out their smartphone. What is missing? Clearly: a WiFi hotspot that strengthens customer loyalty. You advertise the event via social media, but you probably wouldn’t want to publish a public WiFi code there. Your customers can easily query this code directly in the store and have it automatically sent to them by SMS. This does not cause you any significant additional expense, but it does create a decisive added value. As soon as the mobile phone numbers are linked to your WLAN, they will be able to reconnect at the next contact (i.e. when the customer comes back). One more reason for the invited guests to visit your shop more often. Back in social media they can report on the positive experience and draw the attention of other participants to your hospitality.

Similarly, you can use SMS and emails for many other authentication scenarios. Even the instant messengers Whatsapp, Beetalk and Viber use SMS notifications to verify contact information.

Up to date

SMS services also allow users to create updates even if they don’t have an Internet connection. Be it a status update, profile change, posting photos, etc. Both Facebook and Twitter offer such SMS services.

In parallel, your employees can upload data to social media via SMS, for example photos of suppliers where your products are manufactured or used, etc., while on the move. In this way, you can capture topicality, authenticity and connectivity all in one.

At the same time, some of the SMS services of social media include an alert feature. It automatically sends SMS to the user as soon as suspicious account activity is recorded. This can be unauthorized access, notifications of selected contacts, important changes to a friend’s profile, invitations to events and so on.

This means that both you as a company and your customers are always up to date, even without mobile data reception, quite simply and tried, by radio transmission.

Opinion asked

Surveys, polls and the like can be easily implemented on Faceboook. Other social networks find it a little more difficult, but users almost always find a way. From an entrepreneur’s point of view, such votings can also be solved via SMS, even better than via email. One communication channel does not necessarily have to replace the other, both can be combined well.

Here solution would have to be adapted to the campaign and/or the product if necessary. Opinion polls and competitions can also be skilfully implemented via short codes. A simple “Send A or B to number 123” can sometimes activate the user to participate, provided the personal incentive is large enough.

Sponsored by

Sponsoring campaigns can also be set up specifically via SMS. Here again, the criteria of data protection and trust speak in favour of a classic form of notification. Anyone who recruits sponsors via social media or appears as one can use Two Way Messaging via SMS to create a parallel communication path through which the sponsor and sponsored parties can exchange safety-critical information.

The way in which companies communicate with their customers has changed significantly as a result of social networks. A change that holds many unknowns, but provides at least as many opportunities. Under no circumstances should everyone involved lose sight of the keyword “social”. The users of such platforms primarily want to be informed, enthused, moved, stimulated – if they then decide to buy the products the better. However, what counts most here is the marketing of the company’s image. Only those who present themselves credibly can profit from this.

Best Regards

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