03
Apr

2012

How Not To Do “Viral” Marketing

Post by Steven Dale

Dear Company That Invited Me To Use Their Image “However I Like,”

The way I’d like to use the image you so kindly offered me is to discuss how not to do viral marketing and irritate the potential customers you’re so desperately trying to solicit.

Please allow me to give some background:

A couple of days ago I received an email from one of your staff (whose initials are JR) who “wanted to reach out and share a graphic that my team and I created which takes a closer look at how our daily commute is affecting our mental and physical health.”

Those were JR’s words, not mine.

If I may for a second, JR’s email skills are impeccable. She has exquisite grammar, flawless spelling and never once sounds like a Nigerian prince.

She is an emailer’s dream.

JR seemed like such good, upstanding people – and she was genuinely interested in the issue of our daily commute. When JR asked if I would be interested in “taking a look” I was dumbstruck by the opportunity.

Of course I’ll take a look! I thought. Traffic (the vehicular kind) is after all the sorta’ kinda’ business we’re in here.

I was then directed to the image to the left and was told to “to use it as (I) like!”

What a deal!

Coming up with unique and original content on a daily basis is a lot of work and suddenly here’s some generous soul offering something I could use immediately!

JR and her “team” had clearly done their research and had some interesting stats to share with the world. Why wouldn’t I share this with our readership?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves . . .

Before taking the plunge and embedding your image in our site, I thought it prudent to bop around your site a bit to learn more about who these angels were who were oh so willing to help me in my daily grind. Even though I was confident of your generosity, my due diligence training taught to look out for offers too good to be true. Nevertheless, I was confident that you were true of heart and spirit.

“Who were these selfless traffic gurus?” I asked myself as I began to explore your site.

I was crushed to learn the answer.

It turns out JR and her team were not the insightful traffic specialists I’d hoped but were instead a bunch sleazy marketers hawking a lousy website about online universities and attending college while living at home with your parents.

And while I’ll admit to being somewhat intrigued by the offer of kibitzing with like-minded individuals about the horrors of trying to sneak one’s freshman-aged girlfriend into one’s bedroom while one’s mother’s passed out in front of late-night reruns of Family Feud, those years are well behind me. I also don’t think the content has a lot of relevance to our readership which is comprised mostly of transit geeks, planners and engineers with a specialized interest in using ski lifts as public transit.

I may be wrong about that, but I don’t think so.

Listen, just like most bloggers out there, we’re happy to provide backlinks and traffic to other sites with interesting, relevant content for our readership – that’s the way the internet works after all. What we’re not willing to do, however, is embed an image on our site that’s designed exclusively to garner said backlinks and traffic to a site that has absolutely nothing in common with our own. That just isn’t right in our opinion.

We’re also not willing to work or collaborate with people who are duplicitous, dishonest or otherwise misrepresent their intentions. Is what JR and her team did spam? Not exactly. But it’s not exactly not spam either, now is it? I’ll admit to being confused about that distinction, but do recognize that such a distinction exists. We’re sure you see the problems this raises and are hopeful that you regret confusing us in this manner.

We still, however, wish to thank you for the image. It’s very well laid-out and has some interesting points to make.

And to show you that there are no hard feelings, we’ve downloaded the image from your website and re-uploaded it to our own. We’ve worked around any of the requested embedding and have eliminated any of the backlinks it may have provided you. I’m sure you understand our actions and will agree with our opinion that, by doing this, our readership will enjoy your content much more knowing that they aren’t at risk of accidentally clicking a link and being directed to a website that has absolutely nothing in common with our own site (yours, in this case).

And just to put your mind further at ease, we recognize that this has been released under a Creative Commons license, so distributing your work in this way presents zero copyright issues from our standpoint – we’re totally protected, so don’t worry about that.

We’re also not going link to or use the name of your company because that would defeat the purpose of the understanding that we’ve reached here. We are however going to point our readership to the name of your website (which is located at the bottom of your image) without actually explicitly using the name.

In this way, they know exactly what kind of marketing techniques your site engages in and will avoid it all costs while at the same time not providing you with any of the traffic or back links you so clearly covet. We think you’ll agree that this is an appropriate thing to do given the circumstances and we hope that you’ve learned your lesson.

Lastly. We don’t want to look selfish. We know that we’re using your image and not giving you any of the things in return that you desired. We feel bad about that.

As such, we’d like to offer you some ideas of other websites you may wish to contact. We’re not sure, but these websites may have content that is just as relevant to your interests as you thought ours were to yours:

Good luck and thanks again!

Sincerely,

The Gondola Project

PS – We really hope our readers will blog, share, stumble, facebook, tweet, whatever this as much as possible.



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Comments

  1. Matt the Engineer
    "Everyday, of all drivers, 19% give the finger, 2% tried to run someone off the road" Really? I hope those are lifetime statistics, not "everyday".
  2. Yeah, I'm thinking 2% of drivers aren't trying to run someone off the road everyday.
  3. wonder if thers a math formula for that too
  4. Matt the Engineer
    Even as lifetime statistics, 2%? That seems much too large to be true.
  5. Does anyone else but me see the irony in a website dedicated to online universities demonstrating such poor research techniques? Just saying is all.