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Interview with Jennifer Laycock - Viral Marketing & Social Media

June 14, 2007

Viral Marketing Questions


Pauline (PK): What is your definition of viral marketing?


Jennifer (JL): Viral marketing is the creation of an idea that has high enough appeal to your target audience that theyíll embrace it and share it with their friends.


PK: What do you think the biggest misconception about viral marketing is?


JL: That itís something you can simply ďmake happen.Ē Iíve been approached by quite a few companies that call me up, stating ďWeíve created this campaign, can you make it go viral.Ē Iím left having to explain to them that it doesnít work that way.instead, they need to talk to someone BEFORE they begin planning the campaign. Viral marketing is not a way to promote something that already exists ó itís the careful creation of an offering and a campaign that are designed from the start to have a high appeal and to be easily spread.


PK: For marketers new to viral marketing, what are a few things to avoid?


JL: The 2 biggest issues for those new to viral marketing are scalability and a misunderstanding of how viral works. These problems sort of cover both ends of the spectrum. The first can leave a business buried under so much traffic and business that they arenít able to fulfill their obligations. The other can lead them to launch a campaign thatís dead in the water from the start.


PK: Which recent campaign, in your opinion, has raised the bar for viral marketing?


JL: Iím personally a big fan of Doveís Evolution campaign. Dove managed to hit the ďmotivating factorĒ and ďemotional appealĒ nails right on the head with that one. Launching it via YouTube was a great idea too since anyone could easily feature the commercial directly on their website. That campaign spawned tons of talk, millions of views, and quite a few spoofs. (The spoofs are valuable because they attract male eyeballs and men then tell their wives/girlfriends about the original.)


PK: Where can our interested readers go for further information on viral marketing?


JL: Well, they can obviously get more at Search Engine Guide, but Iím also a fan of Viral Garden.


Social Media Questions


PK: Most people involved in social media typically use this strategy in hopes of creating positive buzz about their product or services; whatís the best way to handle negative buzz?


JL: Negative buzz needs to be handled carefully, otherwise it can blow up into horrible buzz. ;) My best piece of advice is to avoid instant reactions to these types of issues. Yes, youíll need to act quickly, but donít shoot off an email in anger or frustration. Instead, sit on it for a little bit, speak with some trusted associates, figure out if thereís any merit to the negativity, and then come up with a creative way to address it. If you are wrong, admit that youíre wrong and work to rectify the situation. If you arenít wrong, consider approaching the issue with humor or diplomacy. A lot of times negative buzz isnít malicious ó itís caused by simple misunderstanding. Iíd say that 8 times out of 10 a simple email or phone call can help make the situation work out well for both sides.


PK: At past conferences, I heard you mention that yes, if you get a big story on Digg youíll get tons of traffic, but that doesnít necessarily equal good conversions. Do you think people are getting this?


JL: Nope. I still see people obsessed with getting on the front page of Digg. Thatís fine, it can certainly send a ton of traffic and can drive lots of links, but as with any campaign, you need to weigh the time/effort with the potential reward. Iím spending a lot more time doing creative marketing via blog communities and Flickr than I am with Digg. Then again, I rarely work with products that appeal to young techie males, so Digg users arenít really my target audience.


PK: Have you had a chance to take a look at Guy Kawasakiís Truemors? What do you think?


JL: will get a lot of hype and a lot of attention from a very small group of people, but the greater Internet population will likely never know it exists. I can see some fun value in it (the same way I see fun value in

Digg) but I also see it falling on the pointy end of Matt Baileyís social-media triangle: ďLow engagement, high competition for attention.Ē Thus, I have a hard time thinking itís worth a lot of time in terms of marketing plans.


PK: Thereís been some debate on what is considered ethical when it comes to disclosing that you are getting paid to mention a product/service. Whatís your opinion on bloggers accepting kickbacks? Should they let their readers know?


JL: I think bloggers should be 100% open and honest about any payment or products that they receive in exchange for posts. While Iíve registered at all the paid review sites to see how they work, I have a personal policy of never writing a review because Iíve been paid to. Yes, I often end up getting to keep (or give away) cool products, but I always clarify whether Iíve purchased a product Iím reviewing or it was sent to me. How can your readers trust your reviews if they canít trust your words?


PK: Where can our interested readers go for further information on social media?


JL: Once again, Search Engine Guide has coverage of this, but a few of my personal favorites in the search media realm are Liana Evans and Cameron Olthuis.


[Jillís note: You can see Jen in person and learn more about social media and viral marketing from her at the High Rankings Seminar on June 28-29. Unfortunately, you wonít get to meet Pauline at that event, but you can meet her at the London seminar in October. - J ]