When you hear the term “viral marketing”, you probably don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. That is, unless you know the history of how it began and the incredible story of what it’s become.
For internet marketers and business owners alike, viral marketing has not only woven its way into the advertising and marketing culture of modern-day success stories, but it is quickly 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 single most cost-effective, reliable and strategic way to share information while gaining customers through an approach that truly offers the most bang for your buck.
So how did this technologically-driven marketing approach get its start? One word – Hotmail. Thanks to Hotmail, the first among free web-based email service providers, viral marketing has taken on a life of its own.
When Hotmail first began, they decided that the best way to entice new customers would be to reach the friends, family and colleagues of each user they had. So, in the footer of each and every email that was sent from a Hotmail account, the Hotmail team placed a link that read something like this: “Want a free email account? Sign-up for Hotmail today!” And yes, believe it or not, this strategy went, as we know call it, viral. Hundreds of thousands of users hurriedly signed up for their free email accounts and the rest is history.
That Hotmail model is the foundation for the viral marketing we are familiar with today. From Facebook, to Twitter, to YouTube and LinkedIn, viral marketing takes many shapes and forms. It can vary in approach and evolve within each format, but the bottom line is to share information and do so on a large-scale – for free. Rather than spend thousands on expensive advertising campaigns, businesses (both large and small) have come to recognize viral marketing as a cost-effective way to not only get their message across, but to increase sales and improve business overall. It truly is a phenomenon that continues to gain momentum.
And the more businesses that recognize viral marketing as an acceptable and reliable form of marketing, the more intriguing this approach becomes. Why? Because more and more people and businesses are joining the conversation. More and more we are seeing the positive effects of viral marketing and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
While Hotmail has suffered the consequences of major competition, they are still an important player in the email game, and an extremely influential 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 businesses are better for.