When you hear the term “viral marketing,” you probably don’t have a feeling of warmth and confusion inside. That is, unless you know the story of how it all started and the incredible story of what it became.
For Internet marketers and business owners, viral marketing has not only entered the advertising and marketing culture of modern success stories, but is fast becoming as necessary as billboards, newsletters, and direct mail campaigns were just a decade ago. In fact, some may argue, it has already surpassed these archaic forms of marketing and is now the most cost-effective, reliable, and strategic way to share information and win customers through an approach that truly delivers the best possible return.
So how did this technologically driven marketing approach begin? One word – Hotmail. Thanks to Hotmail, the first among free web-based email service providers, viral marketing has come to life of its own.
When Hotmail started, they decided that the best way to attract new customers would be to reach each user’s friends, family, and colleagues they had. Therefore hotmail login, in the footer of every email sent from a Hotmail account, the Hotmail team has a link that reads: “Want a free email account? Sign up for Hotmail today!” And yes, believe it or not, this strategy was, as we know, viral. Hundreds of thousands of users hastily signed up for their free email accounts and the rest is historic.
This Hotmail model is the foundation of viral marketing that we are familiar with today. From Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, viral marketing takes many forms. It may vary in approach and evolve within each format, but the bottom line is sharing information and doing it on a large scale – for free. Instead of spending thousands on expensive advertising campaigns, companies (large and small) have come to recognize viral marketing as a cost-effective way to convey not only their message, but also increase sales and improve overall business. It is really a phenomenon that continues to gain momentum.
And the more companies recognize viral marketing as an acceptable and reliable form of marketing, the more intriguing this approach becomes. Because? Because more and more people and companies are participating in the conversation. Increasingly we are seeing the positive effects of viral marketing and it seems not to be diminishing anytime soon.
While Hotmail has suffered the brunt of the competition, they are still a major player in the email game and an extremely influential role model in the world of internet marketing. As the grandfather of viral marketing, Hotmail will forever be recognized as the service that started it all. Thanks to them, we have all been bitten by the viral marketing bug and our business is better.