Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Web 2.0 Viral Marketing - is there a business case for social media optimisation?

Now that the web is no longer young and many would say it's... "in it's second iteration". We find ourselves in a situation where Web2.0 now provides the platform from which to seed and host a piece of media to massive, self organising communities using technology which has already being optmised such that much of the resistance to viral propagation has been removed.

Widgitization, social networks, and send to a friend, now offer us a proven method to captivate audiences with our message, host our message and spread our message. The process of widgetization provides a persistant viral platform. Which will (providing at worst, the widget is not removed, or at least see positive attrition in numbers) spread geometrically.

But enough theoretical bollocks for now - the big question is....

Is there a business case for social media, and social media optimisation (SMO) in the travel industry? This was the question put to me by Holidaybreak Chief Executive Carl Michel.

Firstly, it was agreed that there must be. Potentially infinite distribution at negligable cost suggestes a very strong business case exists but lets now put some figures to that...

Today I came across a viral marketing experiment which in it's top line figures suggested an aquisition cost of zero, however it failed to take into consideration the production costs of the viral videos - this in it's self was ranted about over at threadwatch.

The comparison between PPC and viral video was flawed. OK so the production costs weren't taken into consideration ($9600) and the actual cost per acquisition was $9600 to acquire 62 subscribers (rather than customers)

To quote the totally justifiable rant from Brian Turner...

Either I completely misread this, or Marketing Experiments - recently acquired by Marketing Sherpa - by got it completely wrong.

In a study into video as a viral marketing technique, they:

- spent $9600 creating 28 videos for YouTube, Google Video, etc
- which over 60 days received 324,190 views
- which results in 4,162 clickthroughs
- which converted at 1.49% to newsletter subscribers

The article then goes on to laud video viral marketing as a success, and that it beats PPC hands down in terms of acquisition cost.

After all, the acquisition costs for new subscribers via the videos was $0.

But, hang on, what about the $9600 cost of the videos?

Maybe I'm being dumb here, but by my calculator, 1.49% of 4,162 is 62.

Which is $10k to get 62 newsletter subscribers.

I can't see any reason how this can be lauded as a success.

Indeed this IS a justifiable rant, however (as I posted in the comments over at threadwatch) a persistant viral can take some time to take hold. Imagine if only one of the widgetized video clips finds its way into some seriously high traffic and is spread and blogged about daily for a couple of months the multiplication continues to take place - potentially indefinately. Yes it happens.

I recall, back in the day, launching a viral e-book (the old skool equivalent of a widget - I suppose)... The ebook spread and one day it found it's way onto a massive traffic source. It took over twelve months to happen and to be honest I'd forgotten about it.

Now let's travel back in time to just after the dawn of the web 1.0 era....

People knew that they needed a website, they knew it would somehow help their business, and in many cases the only measurable benefit was that it satisfied their ego - Yeh, I'm talking about the electrician "who got a website" and the plumber "who got a website".

Of course there were those who got a website which was developed around their marketing plan and provided a serious contribution to their marketing mix, but the amount of times I had to day... "Listen man! you don't need a website!" or "Hey.. when was the last time you decided to eat in a particular resaurant as a result of an Altavista search?"

I'm sure you get the picture. Well now back to present day, it's November 2006 (oh and I'm almost 33) the Web 2.0 era is well and truely underway. We're in the same situation as we were back in the good old days.

Everyone knows they need a social media strategy but cannot justify it. Just as they couldn't back in 1996.

From tiny acorns, great oak trees grow. was the phrase I used to use back then, and that saying applies more today than ever. Whether it's Web 1 or Web 2.. 3... or 4.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can a site acheive viral marketing when it doesn't sell or advertsing anything? This is an interesting question, but then again, how many sites are there that offers no ads, no memberships, nothing of the sort?

That's exactly what has done. An online confession site that offers its visitors a ad free anonymous site where they can post, read & vote on confessions, rants and secrets.

After only two months this site receives almost 10k new visitors a day and has reached addictive levels.

Prior to Oct 2006, a search on Google for "Keyfess" yielded zero results now there are over 3000 results, all this while it has a zero page rank? Well, it is only 2 months old, it will be interesting to see where it is on its first anniversary!

I must "keyfess", it is refreshing to frequent a site that strictly wants to entertain its visitors and asks for nothing in return.

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