Sunday, March 01, 2009

Does Your Organization Have an Effective Viral Web Strategy?

Non-profits have the seemingly insurmountable task of constantly trying to find inexpensive marketing techniques and campaigns to effectively promote their programs and organizational objectives. Staying on top of every new form of marketing to their audience is key to ensuring they always have a number of marketing strategies working for them at once. Consider viral marketing. As a nonprofit professional or executive, you have heard the term, but still not completely sure of its definition or relevance with your non-profit marketing needs and goals. In this article, we discuss the definition of viral web marketing, how it is most commonly used, and the best tips for using it to your non-profit’s advantage.

What is viral web marketing?

Various forms of new online marketing tactics fall under the category of viral web marketing. Viral web marketing extends from just the basic first tier network that you may reach with a standard marketing campaign-such as email, newsletters, etc-to the networks that feed off the first tier network. For example, many nonprofits and profits alike are using “Tell a friend” buttons or links on their websites and email newsletters. Not only do they extend their welcome to the person receiving the email or visiting the website, but they also extend the welcome to any mutual contact interested in nonprofit-related updates.

It is important to note that viral marketing extends beyond emails and newsletters. With the recent developments in social media, viral web marketing includes targeting groups through video, podcasts, and articles strategically posted on popular networking community. By covering various media, your organization can effectively launch a viral marketing campaign. Viral marketing requires strategic advocacy planning in order to leverage the potential membership. This requires identifying key online audiences and their favoured sites and communities. If your organization doesn’t already have an online component, consider starting with Facebook, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn. Your organization can consider posting video and podcasts related to your cause. By becoming an active member of such online communities your organization effectively reaches out to potential members and interested individuals.
If carried out correctly, viral web marketing techniques like these can be very effective in boosting your customer or member list, and getting your organization’s name and message out there.

Tips for Viral Web Marketing

Now that you know what viral web marketing is and how it can help promote your nonprofit quickly and without much-if any, investment; how do you begin to start using it to your advantage. Here are the best tips you’ll need in devising and carrying through with your first viral web/email marketing campaign.

1.First things first: ensure that you have a professional and attractive website to direct your current members and customers to, as well as potential new members and customers. It should never be underestimated that first impressions are the ticket-or one of the most important tickets-to success. Impress them with an attractive, easy-to-navigate website and they’ll stay there-reading up on your cause, mission, and programs; which, in turn, makes them that much closer to getting involved with your non-profit.

2.Make sure the viral marketing message you devise is clear, well presented, and easy-to-follow. When your members or visitors are surfing the web, and come across your site or email campaign; they want something quick and convenient. Make sure you choose a viral marketing tool that is unmistakable, welcoming, and easy for the person to use. If it is a “tell a friend” button, ensure that the user only has to make a couple of actions to tell their friends. Not only does this make them more susceptible in telling a friend, but more likely to tell a bunch of friends. The same applies for online community profiles, they should be concise and complete. A user should be able to obtain the important information about your cause “at a glance”. If this isn’t possible, your organization has neglected the opportunity to funnel membership or donations.

3.Offer incentives to those who join or relay your message. No matter our age, we all love the idea of getting something for nothing. For your email, newsletter, or web viral marketing campaign; you should always offer your audience something in return for their help in boosting your network of potential customers and members. It doesn’t have to be expensive or lofty in anyway, just a little something that thanks them-and inspires them to do so-for recommending your site and nonprofit organization to their friends, relatives, and/or contacts. This is where your organization can use web services such as YouTube and podcasts to relay first-hand accounts or tips for your membership. In keeping with this strategy, make sure you are prepared to deliver these freebies or incentive prizes at a fast pace or large demand. Delivering once called upon will also show your present and new network the extent of your professionalism and credibility.

4.Follow up with appreciation. Many newcomers to viral web marketing forget-once they set up their viral web campaign-to follow up with thanks and appreciation once they have gleaned new members, customers, or overall response from their viral marketing network efforts. One of the best rules in any kind of marketing, and this extends especially to nonprofits, is to always be aware of your customers, clients, members, etc; and to make them feel not only involved with your nonprofit mission, but more importantly, valued. The trick with marketing is that you have to reach as many people as possible in a manner that seems personal and one-on-one. Follow up with a thank you email, an unsolicited gift or privilege, etc. For organizations with online profiles, ensure that you have budgeted for maintenance of those online profiles. This includes replying to personal messages and posting constant updates. Online profiles can be time-consuming, but their targeted visibility is unparalleled. Just taking a small amount of time and effort to recognize these people who contribute to the success of your nonprofit business, makes them feel good about their efforts and inspired to do and be a part of more.
Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

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