The emphasis should be on Enabling- not Inspiring

by Jonathan Marshall

Every day I read about companies putting way too much time and energy into creating the new, shiny and over-the-top clever video or blog post. Marketing professionals (especially the ones who live and die by social media) push viral like it’s the best thing in advertising since 99 cents. The problem with this is that many times they try to convince business owners that it is absolutely necessary to create a YouTube blockbuster to obtain a successful viral. While that’s definitely one option- many businesses will see a dramatic improvement simply implement an easy and equally effective social media “send to friend” alternative. The idea is to give people a simple yet valuable message to distribute, then give them the proper tools to distribute it with. Once you set it up the first time, your customers do the rest. It’s surprising how well this simple strategy can work for your business. Jennifer Laycock of Search Engine Guide talks about this effective strategy and her personal experience with a Google search that turned up in her blog below. The pop-up advertisement that surfaced without her even asking for the option.

With more and more people signing on to social sites like Twitter and Facebook, advertising agencies are working overtime to figure out how to make the companies, products and offerings go viral. While I’ve written quite a few articles about the theories behind preparing an advertising campaign that’s likely to go viral, the truth is that some of the most effective viral campaigns are also the simplest. Sometimes it’s less about creating a great idea and more about enabling the spread.

I saw the perfect example of this earlier today while hunting for a pair of sandals. I was looking for a pair of slip-on Croc sandals to replace a pair that broke last week. Since I’m going camping with friends this weekend, I wanted to make sure I had replacements before we head out on Thursday. There aren’t any local stores here in Canton that sell this style of Crocs, so I headed to Zappos, knowing I’d get fast, free shipping. Unfortunately, Zappos doesn’t carry Crocs.

That sent me to the Crocs site, which had my shoe in stock, but charges a hefty fee for shipping. That’s when a Google search turned up The site advertising free UPS ground shipping both ways, plus they carried the Crocs I was looking for. On top of that, they were offering $20 off a $50 purchase if I used PayPal. That alone would have been enough to make me mention the site to at least a couple of friends. After all, giving people a great deal is a key way to get them to talk about you.

In fact, I pretty much expected to see the standard “send a discount to friends” option pop up after I checked out. I wasn’t disappointed. But the folks at score in the viral realm by taking it a step further.

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Give the Consumer Control

If you look up in the top right corner of the checkout page, you’ll see the discount code for friends. Clicking on that discount shows where they take things a step further and do them right. They not only offer me a discount for my friends, they give me the ability to share that discount in any way I’d like.

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If you look closely at that screen shot, you’ll notice the standard “email to friend” form. The nice thing is the line of options along the top of the window allowing me to share it via several other social media outlets. As a woman, I love this. I’m not keen on giving the email addresses of my friends to a random company. (I’m more than happy to TELL my friends about a company, but I don’t like handing those email addresses over.)

The folks at give the power of the message to me. No email? No problem. I clicked over to the Facebook icon and filled out the form to share it with my Facebook friends.

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A few seconds later, their coupon and my personal endorsement broadcast to my list of Facebook friends.

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I clicked through the list, looking at the options and ended up shooting the link and a quick plug out to my Twitterverse as well. Making a perfect example of how this type of enabling of your customer can take word of mouth or viral marketing to a whole new level. Had the demanded email addresses for me to give friends the discount, I likely would have given them just three or four addresses. My best friend, my mom and maybe one or two others. But with these options…it got broadcast to a few hundred Facebook friends and to a few thousand Twitter contacts.

Heck, they even gave me a simple “embed” option complete with code, so I’ll go ahead and share it with all your Search Engine Guide readers as well.

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