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.

To recap:

Today we'll take a look at the need to be able to act quickly when it comes to link bait and viral marketing campaigns. While being able to act quickly tends to be important in all areas of marketing, it's absolutely essential to a good viral or link baiting campaign since the direction of a campaign can change quickly. Without the ability to either head in a new direction with it, or to quickly steer things back on course, a business can find itself chasing after a campaign that has spread wildly out of control.

Another benefit of being able to react quickly is the ability to play off of consumer generated viral content that supports or criticizes your brand. With more and more consumers taking both their love of a product and their hated for a company to the web, online reputation management is becoming closely tied with viral content and link baiting. With that in mind, let's take a look at three examples of companies reacting quickly to influence viral campaigns or link bait potential.

Coke & Mentos

If you've been living under a rock, you might have missed the Diet Coke and Mentos viral video that was launched nearly a year ago and the viral madness that followed. It all started with a three minute video that featured two men creating a Bellagio-style fountain display using nothing but two liter bottles of Diet Coke and Mentos candies. (The combo results in a geyser of soda that rivals Old Faithful.)

If you haven't seen the video, here's your chance.

Basically, the video was the perfect example of a consumer launched viral campaign. They launched it on a Saturday and told one person. On Monday morning, the duo received calls from David Letterman and from Mentos. It was the Mentos call that makes this the perfect example of "act quickly."

"They said, we love what you're doing, how can we help?" says Voltz. Mentos began shipping EepyBird thousands of mints for their experiments.

And while Coke did eventually come around and partnered with the team to encourage consumer generated video at the Coke web site, their initial response was:

"It's an entertaining phenomenon," said Coke spokeswoman Susan McDermott. "We would hope people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try experiments with it."

Talk about not getting it and not reacting quickly...

As of the writing of this article, YouTube had more than 8800 "coke and mentos" videos indexed and the original video has received more than 2 million views. The video did even better at Revver, where it was originally posted. The draw of 7.5 million views earned the duo $35K thanks to Revver's revenue sharing policy. Mentos, a company that spent around $20 million per year on U.S. advertising estimates that the value of the buzz created by the videos at somewhere around $10 million.

Can you even imagine gaining an extra 50% in advertising value without spending a dime? Mentos also saw a 142% increase in search interest in the week following the video's launch.

It pays to act fast.

JetBlue Delay Disaster

Earlier this year when an ice storm hit the east coast, airline travelers found themselves stranded in airports and even on runways as more than 1,000 JetBlue flights were cancelled. The thing that made JetBlue stand out from the crowd was that while other airlines cancelled their flights early, JetBlue hung on, hoping to weather the storm and to get flights in the air. They failed. Miserably.

Passengers reported spending more than six hours sitting in planes on the tarmac without being allowed to get off. Others found themselves stranded in terminals for days. More than 11,000 JetBlue pilots and flight attendants were left with no way to contact JetBlue staff to find out where to go or when to report for service. Call centers were overwhelmed as poorly trained staff tried to handle the crushing load of re-booking passengers on new flights.

In fact, videos started to pop up all over YouTube chronicling travelers bad experiences on Jet Blue.

JetBlue appeared to be going down in a fiery crash.

But then, JetBlue responded, quickly posting a sincere mea culpa from JetBlue CEO David Neeleman on YouTube. The video not only apologizes for what happened to customers, but also outlined a 7 day and 30 day plan for putting new policies in place that would prevent such problems in the future. Neeleman spoke with major news outlets and sincerely acknowledged the flaws in JetBlue's corporate structure. He openly and honestly explained what had caused the failure of the system and vowed to spend the time and resources necessary to fix things.

Then they took things a step further. From Business Week:

Its first step toward apologizing was to offer immediate refunds and travel vouchers to customers stuck on Valentine's Day planes for more than three hours--far more than Northwest Airlines handed over following its infamous plane delays in 1999, and quicker than American's response to its December flights full of customers stranded on the runway for as long as eight hours. But the centerpiece of Neeleman's strategy is a new Customer Bill of Rights, a written policy unique among U.S. carriers that JetBlue announced on Feb. 20.

Will JetBlue whether the storm? That remains to be seen, but based on the way they handled the situation and the spread the video and bill of rights, chances are high that JetBlue will one day be lumped in with Tylenol when it comes to "disaster recovery."

As you can see, viral opportunities sometimes fall in your lap. You can try your best to ignore them because you don't know what to do with them, or you can educate yourself ahead of time so that when the time is right, you can react. It worked for Mentos and Jet Blue, it can work for you too.

In part nine of this series, I'll look at the closely related idea of taking advantage of unexpected opportunities to market your business.

May 18, 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.


nice recovery by Jetblue

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