Monday, November 19, 2007

Viral Marketing Ode


Viral Marketing Tips: Greeting Cards

When we speak about viral marketing, we are not talking about the newest disease. We are not talking about a Mad Cow Disease variant or something that you need to be vaccinated for. In fact, we are not referring to a disease at all.

What we are talking about is literally the most powerful traffic generation technique available on the internet. Viral marketing is so powerful that it makes the search engines look small and insignificant in comparison. Even link exchanges, as powerful as they can be, wilt into oblivion in comparison.

What you do with viral marketing is create something, anything, that visitors will want to give to other people. This thing, whatever it is, contains a link and perhaps a short advertisement for your website, ezine or ebook. So far so good, this is just good marketing. The viral part comes in because the people who receive these items want to give them to other people, who in turn want to give them away also.

So you see? What you get is an explosion of marketing for a very small price. It's actually kind of like an avalanche, in that you throw a snowball down a slope and it just grows and grows until the whole mountain of ice and snow is tumbling down.

One very cool viral marketing technique that any web site can take advantage of is greeting cards. I'm sure you've run across these all over the web. You select a graphic (a drawing, photo or other image), perhaps a sound file and add some text. This is sent to one or more people via email. These people open the email and click on a link to view their card. They, of course, have the option from here to visit your web site and perhaps send additional cards to other people (or back to the sender).

If your cards are good enough, you can find this technique alone will generate an incredible amount of traffic. Of course, you have the same problem with greeting cards that you have with your web site - you have to get people to it to begin with. Once you do that, however, you will find that it becomes more or less self maintaining. The more traffic you get the more you generate. Just make sure that all of your greeting card pages are listed in the search engines, well displayed on your page (and perhaps all of your pages) and advertised elsewhere as much as practical.

In fact, it's a good idea to spend as much or more time marketing the greeting cards as the rest of your site, since these tend to create visitors exponentially, while your site is linear.

How do you put greeting cards on your site? First, pick a theme or two. If your site is about model railroads, for example, you might get some photos of trains and train sets; you could include vacation photos, cute animal pictures, scanned drawings or anything else that you feel would make a good card. Just remember to honor copyrights - make sure you have the right to make copies of the materials before you use them.

Once you have a theme or two, you need to find a greeting card service. I've experimented with a few options. I've tried hosting it entirely on my own site, and what I've found is it is difficult to maintain. I've also tried it completely hosted on another site and found it is too restrictive.

The service that I settled upon is called CyberGreeting Network - http://cybergreet.net/. This company, in my opinion, provides the best of both worlds (local and remotely hosted).

The pages, images and sound files are stored on your own web site. You can tailor these all that you want so they blend with your pages perfectly. This is the perfect freedom, and as long as you set up the form properly all will work fine.

How do you do this? You download a template file (as explained in their instructions) and modify it to suite your needs. This may require a little effort on your part (as well as some skill with HTML) but the end result will be worth it.

The remote part of the product (which is free, by the way) is the piece that actually formats and sends the card. You see, on your page you get the visitor to supply the answers to a series of questions in a form. The form data is submitted to a CGI routine which puts everything together into a greeting card. Your visitor simply answers the questions and presses submit. You pass all of this to the routine, which then sends the card to the destination.

I was able to get half a dozen pages of greeting cards working perfectly in an afternoon. These remain on my site, and serve me well by creating a steady, growing stream of traffic. I think you would do well to take a look and determine if this will work for your site as well.

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets. This website includes over 1,000 free articles to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge. http://www.internet-tips.net.

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