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The Virgin’s Guide to Viral Marketing

Since its public boom in 1996, the Internet and social media has mirrored human development in one important manner: we’re now in the middle of the awkward, hormone-ridden age of middle school. As sites like Digg, Propeller, and Reddit begin to blossom from niche political communities and into girls sought after by acne-ridden social media marketers such as ourselves, we must keep a few things in mind.

            Like middle school, there will always be the “jock” marketers with epic mustaches always getting laid first and bullying you around. If you find yourself to be one of these 13 year olds admiring the upper lip fur of sites such as Cracked, College Humor, the Huffington Post, or the Onion as you stare at the social networks beauties from a distance, don’t give up hope. Like the jocks that ruined your life in middle school, these sites have just figured out the elements of viral marketing at a younger age. Perhaps their marketing team flipped across some late night Skin-a-Max during their first sleepover . . . but whatever they did worked. Sites such as this were able to figure out the anatomy of social networks years before the rest of the Internet.

            How have these Internet jocks diffused themselves from the rest of the virgins in the schoolyard? It’s simple: they just put themselves into the mindset of a 13 year old. As the rest of you struggle to reach first base on these sites, these are the 6 simple rules that could help you cop a feel in the world of viral marketing.

Rule 1: Be Relevant to the Girl.

            Relevancy to the audience is the difference between getting your first dance with Mary Jane Rottencrotch, or your first kiss from Susie Sweetlips. Every social network has a defined identity in politics, religion, intelligence, and tastes. If you submit 120 bland blog posts to Reddit with the hope of getting a little action, chances are you are going to end up in bed with Mary Jane Rottencrotch. And instead of the herps, Mary Jane prides herself in banning your IP address permantly from the site. Once this happens, all of your friends that wanted a piece of the action on the same IP (your office) will suffer the same fate. The same goes for the rest of the social networks. If you woo them with content that will impress then you might go home with Susie Sweetlips . . . and once you hit her front, it’s easy to score multiple times. Building a reputation as a site with outstanding content on any of the social networks will go a long ways in getting you in with the ‘popular’ front-page crowd.

Rule 2: Find Your Clique.

            Like middle school, there’s a fine line from being confident and being absolutely annoying. Reddit and Digg spammers are in many ways similar to the friends that borrowed all your stuff yet never gave any thing in return. If you think friends on your account list automatically go through votes on your stories, then you’re living a lie. The way to establish relationships with friend on these social networks is to become active in their lives and to entice them to reciprocate. Simply clicking through the homepage and commenting on a story might give you a little karma . . . but actually delving into the lives of your friends on these sites will work 100 times better. Friends talk to friends, and other people notice you talking to their friends. Once you establish yourself as an interesting contributer then others will begin to take interest. If you think you’re going to get a lay from ol’ Susie Sweetlips by being the emo-loner in the corner then you’re insane. Be popular. Stay popular. Avoid Mary Jane Rottencrotch like the Devil.

Rule 3: Know when to be the Douchebag.

            Girls like Susie Sweetlips find themselves drawn to the “bad boys” at a very young age. After they discover the daytime filth on MTV and VH1, their love will always find a strange attraction to the boys that have no fear in breaking the rules. Your content should follow the same guidelines. While it helps to write pieces that are informative and useful, it is also just as beneficial to focus on controversial issues at some rather frequently. For instance, sports blogs such as Deadspin and Kissing Suzie Kolber pride themselves in their NFL and NCAA content; however, their backbone is the stories that focus on the player’s moral wrongdoings. Deadspin was created after ESPN failed to report on Mike “Ron Mexico” Vick’s herpes, and KSK published scantily clad pictures of Peter King’s teenage daughter. While both sites are considered foundations of the sports blogging community, both found their fame in touching issues that were considered taboo at the time. To this day, you will still find a constructive balance reporting good and controversial news on both sites.  While social communities such as Reddit rarely upvote sports stories, it is interesting to see which of Deadspin’s stories have hit the front page. The moral of the story: If Susie Sweetlips wants to know the facts, there are the established sites out there that her attention will be drawn into reading. If she wants a creative, sometimes taboo spin on any of these stories then you are the “bad boy” for her.

Rule 4: Always Look Presentable.

While I was in middle school this meant wearing anything that embellished the words “Abercrombie and Fitch”. In the world of viral marketing this means having a site that you wouldn’t be ashamed of showing your own mother. Just like middle school, image is just as important as your personality and the content that has been created as a result of your own thoughts. Susie Sweetlips would much rather kiss and empty, brainless site with a beautiful WordPress theme than your horrendous Myspace layout. While you may be blogging about fashion and find the Gucci background quite stylish, it will get you more down votes than a Reddit story praising Glen Beck. Mary Jane Rottencrotch, on the other hand, has always been attracted to your stylish layout. Don’t settle for the lesser of the two girls in this scenario. Susie Sweetlips likes the site with the style and brains.

Rule 5: Be Mysterious.

            One of the greatest secrets to viral marketing: it’s not about you. While putting your name on every story with viral potential is very tempting, it’s often wise to keep it a secret. For example, if you were to “shout” Susie Sweetlips a dozen roses once a week, she will more than likely be turned off by your desperation and plea for her attention. Alternatively, sending a shout from a secret admirer often evokes a narcissistic sensation in her not knowing who has sent the flowers. If you are a company attempting a viral, using a real name could prevent you from launching a different viral down the road.

Rule 6: Think Outside the Box.

            If I haven’t stressed it enough in this article . . . BE CREATIVE, BE CREATIVE, BE CREATIVE! While the teenage shouting a dozen weekly roses at Susie Sweetlips is flattering, she will be more impressed by the kid that breaks the normal barriers. If she likes cats . . . teach Mr. Whiskers how to play the keyboard. If she’s a dog lover, train 3 of them to howl at the moon. While I can’t explain it, keyboard cats and 3 wolves howling at the moon got so much play from Susie Sweetlips that even Wal-Mart is selling shirts their shirts in the store. Papajohns went viral last week by offering all Camaro owners in America free pizzas in celebration of finding their owner’s old car. While this marketing was targeted specifically at Camaro owners, it still hit the front page of every social network because it was original. If you can find a way to create content that is the first of its kind, then you’re well on your way out of Mary Jane Rottencrotch’s league. No self-respecting social media user will down vote an idea that is thoroughly planned and perfectly executed.

Conclusion: Never Give Up.

            So while we may find ourselves in the Internet’s awkward middle school years, just remember to never give up in your quest to make your idea viral. While Susie Sweetlips and her 100,000 hits may seem unattainable, if you use your head then one day your time will come. Eventually you’ll hit your growth spurt and find yourself in the same group as the 10-year-old Skin-a-Max studs. But when you get there always remember the 6 lessons that helped you in losing your viral marketing virginity. Most importantly, never forget the clique of friends that helped you along the way.

The Virgin's Guide to Viral Marketing by No tags for this post.

1 Comment

  1. Vats Thakur
    Oct 20, 2009

    Nice post, thanks.

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