Marketers have rushed to adopt viral marketing tactics, but have largely failed to motivate consumers due to misdirected efforts, a new report from JupiterResearch found.
The study, “Viral Marketing: Bringing the Message to the Masses,” found that only 15% of marketers running viral campaigns in the last year reported any success in getting consumers to spread their messages for them.
One issue the report noted is the relative scarcity of good metrics for viral campaigns. For example, 70% of marketers questioned said their campaigns generated positive brand awareness during the previous year.
“However, this confidence is completely unfounded,” the report said, pointing to a lack of evidence of more concrete results such as increased engagement with the brand or persuading consumers to promote products and services.
“This paradox indicates viral marketers are optimistic about their campaign having some positive impact,” the report said. “When pressed, however, they cannot pinpoint where the impact can be observed.”
The study also indicates that viral marketers plan to cut back on the tactic that has proven most popular so far: targeting campaigns to influential audience members. Companies told Jupiter they plan to reduce those efforts by 55% in the coming year.
But marketers have made the mistake of sending one viral message to all influentials.
“Different influential groups not only respond very differently to advertising campaigns, but also influence each other in very different ways,” said Emily Riley, JupiterResearch analyst and the lead author of the report.
For example, “classic” influentials—the category experts who get asked for purchase advice—don’t spread viral messages anywhere near as much as “new” influentials, the online users who read and post to blogs or social networks.
To make viral marketing work, marketers should also understand the segmentation of their target audiences. Jupiter points out that relatively older online users are actually more likely to forward advertising messages or tell friends about ads. They watch video like their younger counterparts, but they prefer to share with e-mail rather than with widgets or other additions to profile pages.
“There are definitely pitfalls associated with the social-networking sites,” JupiterResearch President David Schatsky said in a statement “Advertisers should be cognizant of the fact that attempts to reach outside their brand images or target demographics only end up looking like they are trying too hard.”