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Wicked cool (and tricky) viral marketing ideas

“But you have to admire the virus. He has a way of living in secrecy until he is so numerous that he wins by sheer weight of numbers.” – Dr. Ralph Wilson

What can I say about viral marketing online. There is no specific formula and the whole nutty business is ran by people that are ultra-creative, and when I say ultra-creative I mean WAY beyond what most people consider really creative. Wicked, wild and crazy creative! I love it.

But today I ran across something that literally stopped me in my tracks because the level of creativity and, to be honest, utter sleaziness has gone unsurpassed in all my years of web experience. I don’t mean sleaziness in a bad way or in a demented way. I mean “sleazy” in a GREAT way that puts a good name on all that is creatively dirty and downright cool to the bone.

I was so ticked off when I finally realized that this was viral marketing, yet so pleased with how incredibly well perpetrated it was.  Here’s how it went down…

A friend of mine emailed me a link today and said “Hey, this is really amazing”. This woman that we went to school with and had not heard from in years was listed as co-author of a new book authored by best selling author Donald Miller. We were extremely surprised and delighted to hear the news because we had no idea that she was such an accomplished writer. We both read the article posted on about the new book and the surprising new literary genius of our long lost friend.

The site looked professional, the cover of the book was there with her name on it, there was a link to buy the book and even a nicely designed advertisement in the sidebar that, yes, had her name on it as co-author. We were so excited. My friend so much that he immediately posted the news on Facebook. I told my wife, I did a search for the author and read all about his books and considered purchasing the book. The news was spreading… Below is the page that details her story and rise to stardom:


Then it all came crashing down.

You see, when you finish reading the article there are various other links on the page like “Read more” or “Visit the official Kristi L. Ullman website”. Well, when you click on any of these links you’re presented with a huge surprise. It’s all bogus! But for us it was too late. My friend had bragged all over Facebook, people were making comments, my wife probably made phone calls and I spent valuable time learning about a new author on a busy Friday. I would have posted it on Facebook myself if my friend didn’t get to it first and I was about to start emailing people when he pointed out that we had just been duped. What an amazing trick though. Our friend simply wanted to promote an admired author’s new book and boy did we do our part.

So keep this in mind when you’re marketing online. There is always more than one way to spread the word and you can NEVER be too creative. In fact, push the boundaries because once a virus starts to spread, it’s very hard to stop it’s momentum.


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About Chris Auman:

Chris Auman is a veteran digital marketer with over 25 years of experience in the trenches. As Sanctuary’s founder and President, Chris has successfully guided online marketing efforts for companies large and small.

Learn more about Chris.

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