Two of the most popular buzz words in the online marketing realm right now are link baiting and viral marketing. These two tactics are a great way to build links and to build branding when constrained by small marketing budgets, but there are several things you need to remember when planning these types of campaigns.

In this ten part series, I'll be covering many of the things that you need to take into consideration when planning a link baiting or viral marketing campaign. While there's no need to integrate all of them into every campaign, understanding what they are and how they work can go a long way toward helping you plan an effective launch strategy.

In part one of the series I look at the importance of a good headline. Today, I'll be talking about the need to make your campaign easy to spread. While the benefit of both viral and link baiting campaigns is that they tend to take off and spread on their own, it's still essential to make sure that you've put plans in place to help things spread. After all, the easier it is to do, the more likely people are to do it.

There are any number of ways to make things easy to share, but I'm going to focus in on four examples that can easily be replicated by businesses of any size.

Send to Friend

This is one of the oldest (and most overlooked) tactics when it comes to viral marketing campaigns and link baiting campaigns. While it isn't uncommon to see a send to friend link show up in an email newsletter or on a news story, many businesses fail to encourage their shoppers to spread the word.

Simply send to friend options that are attached to discounts can be highly motivating and can increase pass-along rates.

Take for example the online t-shirt shop CafePress. When a user completes a purchase on the CafePress site, they are giving the option to send a discount code to up to five of their friends. Each of these email addresses will be sent a brief note from the user and a coupon code good for $5 off their next order. To incentivize it a bit further, the shopper will get their own $5 coupon for spreading the word.

Ask yourself if there are places that you could integrate send to friend style features in order to drive new traffic, drive new conversions and overall, get people to help spread the word about your web site.

Integrate the Ad

Another simple tactic that people often forget is to integrate the ad into the service. Anyone that has received an email from someone with a Hotmail account has seen this in action.

Basically, you include a small tag line or sales pitch with whatever it is that's flying around. In the case of Hotmail, they included a signature file that advertised the service. That way, each time someone sent an email using Hotmail, the company got free advertising. That tactic is credited with helping push Hotmail from zero to 12 million users in just 18 months.

If you are someone that frequents YouTube, you may note that many of the popular videos there have a watermark tag on the video that says Ebaumsworld. That's because those videos were originally posted on that site. The fact that the videos are now popular on YouTube serves as a form of advertisement since many of the viewers will head over to Ebaumsworld after viewing a video to find out what it's all about.

Encourage a Response

Ever received an e-card from If you have, you've probably noticed that after your card plays, there's a push to return the gesture by sending a card back to the person that sent one to you.

When the instant Internet cult classic "Snakes on a Plane" was being released, they did a viral program that allowed you to fill in some basic information and then have the voice of Samuel L Jackson call a friend to leave a funny message promoting the movie. You could also send people to a web site that would play the message. In that version of the campaign, users were encouraged to send a new and different message back to the original sender.

The idea of encouraging someone to pass the word along works just as well when you encourage them to return the favor. Thus, when you take advantage of something like a "send to friend" or an integrated ad, ask yourself if there's some way to encourage a response from the person.

One Click Access to Social Bookmarking

A technique that is especially strong when it comes to link bait is setting up one click access to popular social media sites. Almost anyone that has browsed a popular blog or news outlet lately has noticed the buttons that allow users to quickly add the site to their own RSS reader.

Now one-click buttons for social bookmarking are becoming popular as well. These buttons are usually tiny icons at the top or bottom of the content and are setup to allow members of those social bookmarking sites to simply make one click to vote on the story.

This not only reminds people to go and vote, it also saves them the time of hunting for the story so that they can vote on it. If your web site or blog covers topics that are of interest to the demographics that use social bookmarking programs, it's a good idea to set this type of one click access up to help spread the word.

Get Creative

Anyone that has heard me teach on this topic knows that my favorite "cop out" suggestion is to simply get creative. The four options above are all tried and true ways to encourage your viral or link bait campaign to spread further, faster. Still, there are plenty of other ways to do it as well. Just ask yourself what things make it easy for you to pass the word along and then find a way to integrate it into your campaign.

In part three of this series I'll look at the idea of exploiting motivators.

April 26, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Making Link Bait and Viral Marketing Work - Part Two