A Primer on Viral Marketing

Dan Limbach

Viral Marketing is a term that’s been bandied about for several years, starting with VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s use during their 1996 investment in dotcom startup Hotmail, easily the fastest user growth in history.

Viral Marketing exists when adoption of a product or process grows at an exponential rate. Every use stimulates new users and the number of users grows dramatically in a short time.

Consider these viral successes:

  • Ebay
  • Blue Mountain Arts
  • Napster & MP3
  • ICQ Instant Messaging

Common characteristics:

  • Doesn’t require a huge marketing budget
  • Each use promotes more adoption by others
  • Applicable to a large cross-section of demographics
  • Free or inexpensive

The idea is everything. No amount of money and talent can “make” a bad idea go viral, but a great idea sometimes cannot be stopped from reaching the stars.