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.
Today, I'm going to look at the issue of building relationships and why relationships are necessary to launching viral marketing and link baiting campaigns. In fact, in part four of the series I explained the necessity of relying on existing networks to get the word moving. While it's possible to put part four into play on it's own, I can promise you that it will go much easier if you read this article and put the practice of relationship building into play.
First, let's take a look at a little bit of data that explains just how important this whole relationship building thing is. Jupiter Research published a report earlier this year on how people use the Internet and social media services to communicate.
This chart looks at how people are using the Internet to build (or maintain) relationships and compares "frequent net workers" (those who use social style sites on a regular basis) with people that use social sites in any amount.
You'll note that a large majority of both groups are using the Internet to keep in contact with existing friends. Chances are good that you've experienced this for yourself. Think of the friends from college, from your home town and from business events that the Internet has allowed you to keep in touch with.
Now consider the new friends that the Internet has allowed you to make. That might mean relationships that were built through blogs, discussion forums, email lists, social media sites or even business relationships.
An essential thing to remember about the marketing is that people would rather listen to their friends than to advertising. Interestingly, with the advent of the Internet, the category of "friends" has dramatically expanded in terms of who people influence.
That second set of bars in the chart shows how many people are making new friends online. Those new friends, often people that will never meet in real life, are now carrying almost as much influence as off-line, flesh and blood relationships. When people establish themselves as experts online and build personal relationships with their blog readers or members of their discussion forum, a broad sphere of influence is formed.
This next chart, also from the Jupiter Research study, shows how likely Internet users are to spread the word about products, services and features that they find online. You'll note that the users are broken down into three categories. The first, "new influentials" is made up of the people that create the content that people read. These are bloggers, social bookmarkers and people generating new content. The second, "frequent networkers" are the people that are using social media sites to interact with people, make friends and comment on existing content. The last group encompasses all online users, even those who do nothing more than read email or conduct a few searches.
All three of these groups admit to spreading the word about products and services and some of them admit to forwarding advertisements. While it's true that just 8% of Internet users are forwarding advertisements you have to ask yourself what would happen if the advertisements that were being forwarded were yours. What would it do to your business to build a viral marketing campaign or a piece of content good enough to tap into that word of mouth?
This is why it's essential to not only find and identify the key influencers in your target audience, but also to build relationships with them. Contact bloggers and forum owners, become active members of their online discussions and understand what makes them tick. Join email lists and subscribe to podcasts that connect you with the people that are purchasing your product. Listen to what they have to say and think about how you can address both their praise and their critiques.
What it all boils down to is this.
People are using the Internet to build relationships. If you aren't thinking about how building relationships can further your business ventures and your marketing campaigns, then you need to get on the ball. After all, it's the relations that you and your business build with individuals that will help you reach the influencers and get your viral or link bait campaign rolling.
In part six, I'll take a look at how you can use other people's resources to help brand your web site and to gather new links.
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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