Double Dipping – The Case for Two Viral Marketing Strategies

>>Special Thanks to Brennan White for this answer: Brennan is Founder of Pandemic Labs and writes the Pandemic Blog which brings knowledge of social media marketing, experience with social networks and experience with professional media creation together for clients.

Scott Clark asked Me The Following Question:

“Malcolm Gladwell, Elihu Katz, Paul Lazarsfeld, Ed Keller and Jon Berry subscribe to versions of the theory that each marketing message flows through two stages – to influencers first, and then to the masses. Followers in the marketing industry therefore spend lots of money targeting those influencers. Duncan Watts has stimulated a lot of discussion and debate by publishing research[pdf] and arguing (well) that such starts with a random set of people, and then spreads in a more organic way – so we should spread messages to the masses (at least the receptive ones) in order to improve viral penetration. Which theory do you subscribe to? What modes of Internet Marketing (multiple or single) would best fit these theories? Is there a hybrid theory that makes more sense? ”

As is usually the case in my experience, the answer to this question lies somewhere in the middle. That is to say in this instance that both extremes are effective to some degree, but the most effective strategy involves aspects of each theory. In this particular case, the hybrid argument is made stronger by the fact that accomplishing one “extreme” effectively will actually “double dip” and accomplish the other extreme as well thereby erasing the distinction between the extremes almost entirely.
To start, it is inarguably worthwhile to have the attention of traditional influencers. One mention from Oprah can “put you on the map” and change your business. A mention will almost definitely create additional blog discussion and a longer “shelf life” of the buzz surrounding your product. In my experience, these are all good things.
The difference that a lot of “old-school” marketing and PR folks seem to be missing is that Oprah, the Wall Street Journal and your local paper, are no longer the key influencers that everyone needs to target to build effective buzz for their business. A mention of your new technology offering by Engadget can drive as many views as a mention from the traditional media and those views come from micro-targeted individuals. For example, an Engadget mention will drive people interested in technology to your site, rather than people just interested in overall business in general as would a WSJ mention. It is clear that, while the WSJ provides some targeting of buzz, internet sites generally are more specific and more tightly targeted. Additionally, due to prevalence of blogs, wikis and the like, the number of influencers has become more numerous and your job of contacting them has gotten much easier.