Viral marketing is also known as buzz marketing. It is very similar to social network marketing. It means marketing technique using social network to produce increased awareness of brand or to achieve other marketing objectives. The only differentiator here is the use of self-replicating viral processes to produce buzz. It is spreading marketing messages using ways very similar to the spread of viruses (both actual viruses and computer viruses).

Viral or buzz marketing is also known as centrifugal marketing, grassroots marketing, guerrilla marketing, referral marketing or wildfire marketing. There are many terms used in the market as different people with different approach would want to have their own version.

How is the viral process achieved by the marketers? The most obvious is through the word-of-mouth enhanced by social networks. The viral promotions are spread by the people through forwarding the marketing messages through various media like emails, text messages, e-books, images and even interactive flash games. Have you ever received email with content so interesting and irresistible that you just have to forward it out to your friends so that they can also enjoy content as much as you do? This is the essence of viral marketing.

For word-of-mouth method to work the main objective is to identify individuals or methods with high social networking connections to pass the marketing messages around the influence circles. These individuals are supposedly the centre of influence (COI) so as to make the marketing more effective. People around will listen to COI. This is human nature. It also works in advertising by getting influential people to endorse on certain products. Buzz marketing is basically the practice of creating talk around a product, service, company or brand.

The most notorious examples of viral marketing are those related to pyramid schemes and multi level marketing (network marketing). Looking at it positively, this is how human beings naturally would do if they are happy with certain products or services. We would automatically want to talk about the benefits we are getting. We just can’t stop sharing when we are really satisfied.

The classic example of successful viral marketing is Hotmail free email service. It started as the first free web mail service with following strategies: provide free email address and service and attach a simple tag at the bottom of every email sent out to invite people to create free email account. The effect is viral as people who receive the email will read the invitation and start creating email account to send even more emails to other who will then start creating email addresses. The process will go on and on and getting bigger and bigger. This is the power of viral marketing.

To conduct successful viral marketing, here are some important elements as outlined by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson in The Six Simple Principles of Viral Marketing: give away valuable products or services, provide effortless transfer to others, scales easily from small to very large, exploit common motivations and behaviors, utilizes existing communication networks and take advantage of others’ resources.

You would be able to find many examples of viral marketing if you are observant enough to the advertisements in various media surrounding us.