Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Don't Wait, Innitiate!

The key to any successful viral marketing campaign involves finding and activating innitiators. Different marketing directors call these people different things. I prefer the use of the term innitiators. Basically, these are people that have two things in common: 1) they have a lot of friends (and are usually early adopters), and 2) they have a lot of influence. The idea is to sell them on your product, and them have them peddle it to their friends. Social networking sites are great for finding initiators because many of them tell you how many friends a person has, and therefore how large their network in. In the above graph, you can see our friend network graph from our Care2 site. All those in blue are people Americans for the Arts has a direct connection with, and then all of those in purple are the friends of our friends. Our Care2 site is relatively new, so we only have around 120 friends, however because we have purposely sought out innitiators, we have over 77,000 people in our network.

So how is this appicable in your everyday life? Take for example Virginia Stage Company's fall production of CROWNS. I was still working at that time as the Company's Director of Marketing and Communications. CROWNS is a "play with music" based on the African American gospel tradition. Early in the marketing campaign for the show, we developed an innitiator strategy that proved to be quite effective. We invited all the ministers of the numerous historically black churches in our area to an exclusive preview on a Saturday evening. We provide them not only with a sneak peak of the performance, but dinner and drinks as well. We gave them promotional kits and asked them to advocate on behalf of the production. The hope was that the following Sunday morning, they would mention the show to their congregations and activate them in spreading the word. It worked like a charm and we had several very large group orders (100 tickets plus) come from local churches. The production went on to being the third best selling production in the company's 28 year history.

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