Viral “marketing” – word of mouth in a YouTube world

We are presently experiencing a virtual pandemic. I am not referring to the current Swine Flu, more properly named the H1N1 Flu . I am speaking of viral marketing,  the term itself is relatively recent and started to be used in the mid 1990’s. The term’s imagery is particularly engaging. While it certainly can carry a negative connotation I want to address the ramifications of this “phenomena” as it relates to the age-old concept of “word of mouth” now sometimes referred to simply as “WOM”.  We have all heard this: there is no better form of advertising than word-of-mouth. Among other attributes of WOM, the perceived non-commerical nature of the communication enhances its credibility. One of my basic premisses about WOM in its contemporary manifestation is that technology has spawned a social networking capability that adds such potential impact to word of mouth  that it has or at least is on its way to re-asserting itself as one principal means for driving acceptance/popularity of products, persons, ideas, and “information”.

How did someone or something get notice – positive or negative – historically, let’s say in Rome in 63 B.C. “Word” travelled on horseback or chariot; escapades and episodes were passed from person to person and made reputations, for ill or well. But it wasn’t exactly speedy delivery.

Cicero, the great orator, politician, and philosopher of the period said “Like readily consorts with like”; the idea is that the transmission of a message from an accepted source has both credibility and influence, and is therefore eagerly  shared with others,  because in part, the person who passes it on  wants to be associated with the remark and the party making it.

In viral communication, those who get the “virus” affect going are usually individuals with what has been characterized as high social networking potential (SNP).  There is in fact a whole new area of marketing/public relations activity devoted just to injecting positive “buzz” intentionally through using a viral approach – kind of like seeding a cloud to produce a rain shower.

The Susan Boyle example from the TV show “Britian’s Got Talent” is a textbook study in viral communication and its potential impact. The YouTube clip of her singing in the competition literally spanned the globe with meteoric speed, and due largely to this she has become something of an icon – and rightly so, exemplifying  the adage, “you can’t tell a book by its cover”. Thus the rise of another “star”  born through the power of the Internet.

There are lots of implications for all of this. Does the viral approach to popularizing persons and things have merit or is it a menace? The verdict is yet to be rendered –  by a jury of our peers  –  and the jury is still out.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/05/24/viral-marketing-word-of-mouth-in-a-youtube-world/

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