Posted by : Amanda Stein Thursday, April 25, 2013

As a small business owner you are competing in a tough market, against some large companies and on a limited budget. Whilst advertising is a vital element of successful growth, ensuring your advert gets you bang for your buck is imperative. Advertising should be targeted to plant a seed, direct sales from adverts in today’s market is unlikely and for small business the conversation rate of advertisement on Google or banner ads on other websites simply do not make them viable. But if cost is your main concern then there are cheap ways to reach huge volume of customers. When advertising is done through social media you have to consider the customers point of view. With the rise in online TV and film people are less likely to engage with traditional forms of advertising so as a business you need to engage with these new techniques. Facebook and Google have an established mechanism of paying for advertising; Facebook’s relatively recent pay to promote option has turned many businesses away from their service as they have limited the non-paid reach of any post regardless of your overall like count.

Soft Marketing

Traditional selling messages have not translated well into social media, one of the biggest complaints and a reason given for the falling membership in Facebook is the direct advertising now prominent on its platform. Most large companies now invest a large portion of their budget into content marketing, often writing informative blogs not directly selling their products. This soft touch approach to marketing has increased due to the poor conversion rate of traditional hard advertising, brand loyalty being seen as a great way to generate sustainable growth.

Using your customers as brand ambassadors has been a proven technique; the system of viral marketing is about having not only customers but also non-customers act as brand ambassadors giving you coverage far wider than any traditional advertising campaign.

Viral Advertising

Social media has facilitated a rise in viral content, a tactic utilised by many good companies big and small. Irn Bru (a Scottish based fizzy drink) is renowned for having funny advertising campaigns that have gone viral across social media. There are three key ways to hit viral marketing:

 * Humour; People are likely to share funny content with others.

 * Informative: People will share information across social media.

 * Unusual: People will share unusual or unexpected content.

Viral Marketing campaigns can be as elaborate or simple as you like, two case studies of both extremes are below:

Blooded the movie

The film Blooded is about a small group of hunters in the Scottish highlands who are drugged and given a taste of the animals they hunt existence from a group of extreme anti-hunting lobbyists. The film is shot as a mockumentary, interviews with supposed surviving characters from the story piece together the events that took place. Prior to the film’s release the small company which made the movie started a website for the anti-hunting lobbyists and began to post clippets of this extreme lesson on YouTube, sparking huge controversy and much forum debate. Only on the film’s release was this outed as an elaborate marketing campaign. This gave the film a huge platform on which to sell its product and engage with many people who otherwise would never have seen the movie. It was a brilliant example of viral marketing, both thought provoking, encouraging engagement and ultimately the volume of shares across social media. 

Horror Emporium Retailer

A small internet retailer of horror merchandise began a viral marketing campaign riding the wave of popular culture. With a huge increase in the interest of the zombie genre they posted a picture of a zombie and the words “You are now infected, share to infect others”. This campaign reached over 50,000 people and whilst no direct advertising was present the soft advertising potential of engaging with the more curious user was a great example of viral marketing on a limited budget.

What Platforms to use

The best social media platforms to begin viral advertising on are; Google+, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The reason for these are because of the mechanisms that make sharing or liking simple, also due to the magnitude of users actively engaged in the platform. For more niche products or services, niche forums and social media platforms may also work well. Even if you do not manage to get an advert to go viral, encouraging interaction will still give you wider coverage than simple advertising.

Steven Hill is a Resource Planning professional and small business owner. Using his spare time to help support other Businesses and his Resource Planning and Business blog provides many ideas and ways to improve your business.

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