The Measurable Water Cooler: Viral Marketing And ROI

by , Jan 26, 2009, 7:00 AM
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How much does a Superbowl commercial cost to shoot? $1-3 million dollars. How much does it cost to air? Two million plus. How many people see it, for how long? 10 million people, 30 seconds each.

Of course, there is the water-cooler effect that multiplies the 30 seconds of "brand exposure time" by the number of conversations each viewer has with their family, friends, and coworkers. That is what makes a good ad drive success: it resonates and captures mind share.

There are different methods to measure mind share and brand exposure, including, since 2007, Nielson's "Commercial Ratings" and "before and after" tests. How accurate these tests are depends on who you ask. One thing is for sure: the media is expensive, the tests are expensive and the results are an estimate.

Online, however, we can measure the water-cooler effect down to the individual action. Take a look at these reports as a reference:

report1

Report2

The above reports reflect successful campaigns, that had good creative and that followed Viral Marketing Best Practices. What stands out in these reports?

1. More people are showing up from emails than from the site. If 50% of your users are coming from emails, you have a hit. If 20%, you have potential.

2. High level of personalization: Over 50% of the users personalized the media in some way, either by uploading a photo or recording audio. This is a high number. If you have even 20% of the users participating in such personalization, the application shows strong potential to become viral.

3. Time spent: An application that keeps users interactive for more than three minutes is engaging. An application that keeps users active for over five minutes is a hit.

4. Sharing: A successful viral application drives sharing. Sharing includes email, embed posts, send to phone etc. An application with more than 10% of user sessions ending in a sharing action has potential to become viral. Over 20% of sessions concluding with sharing, indicates a viral hit.

5. What do recipients do? If users who receive a viral message click on it more than once, the reports will show an open rate of over 100%. An open rate over 150% indicates a good status. Over 200%, it's a hit.

Measurements such as CPM, CPC and CPA, traditionally associated with display media are now available to marketers deploying viral campaigns. These measurements allow marketers to calculate the ROI for user actions, from click through, to lead generation to per engagement cost.

Detailed real time usage reports also give marketers the opportunity to tweak the application based on the users' behavior, optimizing for best results, early on in the campaign.

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