Three Easy Steps to Test Your Viral Marketing Ideas

by Hamlet Batista | November 07, 2007 | 12 Comments

Viral marketing may be one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to market a product or service, but achieving success remains more of an art than a science. In fact, one of the most frustrating aspects of viral marketing is that you can spend a lot of time and money on what seems like a great idea, yet ultimately be faced with disappointing results. I’ve been playing around with a simple framework to put my viral ideas to the test before committing major resources. Call it “viral ideas split testing.” I think you’ll like it…

Step 1: Brainstorm your viral ideas

Try to come up with at least ten simple and original ideas—nothing too complex. If you want to create videos, consider creating black and white sketches or pictures with captions; you can use that later as the basis for your storyboard. If you plan to create tools, consider writing simple JavaScript prototypes first.

And what better place to draw inspiration for successful viral ideas than social media sites? Use the search function in Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon or other sites with keywords related to the topic of your campaign to find previously successful submissions.

Another good way is to modify your profile on StumbleUpon and limit it to the topic you want to research. Start stumbling and bookmark the best ideas you find. Remember, the goal is not simply to copy, but to use these as inspiration to come up with ideas that provide similar benefits.

Step 2: Test each idea on StumbleUpon Ads

Create a campaign for each idea on StumbleUpon Ads and select the most appropriate category. You can refine the campaign further by selecting country and other demographics. (Note that a lot of StumbleUpon users don’t fill out their profile completely and this will filter them out.)

You might not want to use your regular StumbleUpon account because you are testing, and may not want your friends or fans to see what you are up to.

StumbleUpon Ads also gives you immediate feedback about your campaigns based on the number of thumbs up and thumbs down. It is interesting to pay attention to the lack of thumbs up or down too. Based on the testing I’ve been doing, a large number of people don’t vote and that needs to be accounted for as well.

It is a good idea to leave the campaign running until you are able to collect feedback so that you can tell what you are doing right or wrong. Pause the campaigns with the lowest success rates. Use the information you gather to improve the content you are trying to push or to think of something completely different.

Step 3: Improve and offer your winning campaign

After tweaking your campaigns, you’ll successfully figure out the winning idea. Dedicate your time, money and resources on improving the content of that one. Pitch the content to one or more power Stumblers and Digg power users and watch your content spread like wildfire!

Do you have a viral marketing strategy? Please share it in the comments.

Hamlet Batista

Chief Executive Officer

Hamlet Batista is CEO and founder of RankSense, an agile SEO platform for online retailers and manufacturers. He holds US patents on innovative SEO technologies, started doing SEO as a successful affiliate marketer back in 2002, and believes great SEO results should not take 6 months

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