Going Viral – Understanding The Difference Between Viral Marketing And MLM

Can you tell the difference?

In this first post I would like to explore just what going Viral means and to point out the difference between MLM pyramid marketing and Viral marketing. They are not the same even though they are often billed as the same.

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing leverages the principles of exponential mathematics, In its most simple form its one thing doubling to make two things and then those two things double and you have four things

This is how cells reproduce themselves which is the root principle behind all biological life on this planet. Viral marketing is taking this principle of replication and repeating the process in many different forms and mediums. The intention is to create a type of growth that is independent and continues on its own without any need for external energy input. Something that causes a chain reaction or moves like ripples in a pond spreading outward from the initial event.

Digital Duplication

With the advent of the internet and the ease with which digital media can be reproduced an understanding of the principles of Viral Marketing and advertising becomes very important. What is also important is the ability to distinguish a true viral business as opposed to a pyramid or MLM structure.

Viral Traffic Generators

A few weeks ago I got a message from a friend on facebook, he was offering another one of those viral traffic generators schemes. I don’t normally bother with these things but as I respected this friend I took the time to check out exactly how it worked. I was impressed with this one because it was so clean, and direct and told you exactly how it was going to work. And had an interesting hook that in order to sign up you had to spend 10 seconds on each advert to get a secret code number. It works the same as a chain letter. I realised that if you had your website on here the quality of the traffic would be very low. And most people wouldn’t be interested in buying anything from these websites. I thought that I could add my Blog to the list so that I might interest some of the people clicking on all the links.

A big promise

The Viral Scheme promised millions of visitors so I signed up got my affiliate link and shot out a quick mail to one of my groups. I was a bit wary of promoting something like this but I decided to do it just as a test to see what sort of results I would obtain.

Promises are meant to be Broken?

Anyway, 4 weeks later and I haven’t got the millions of visitors to my site, I have had a few trickle through but overall it has been disappointing. The only viral part of this scheme is the actual viral site itself, not the service it provides. This is what is actually being spread, and the benefits are going only to the owner of this site as they build up a massive list of people who have signed up hoping that their dreams of free traffic would be fulfilled.

Only the Top Promoters Benefit

What I suspect happens in most cases and this is what happens in most MLM and Network marketing companies is that the only people who benefit are those who promote this scheme to thousands of people below them. And because only a few of them will pass it on to their friends, after a while it just fizzles out. If you want to make it work, you need to promote it to people with huge lists who only promote to other people with huge lists who only promote to other people with huge lists. Very soon the mathematics hit a critical point and there is no-one left to promote to.

Unwanted Spam

Any of you who have signed up to a few of the many business groups on facebook are probably sick of all the offers of free traffic that are being touted. The only way you are ever going to get the free traffic is if you promote the scheme with the same vigour and determination as the person who got you interested. What that would result in is a load of unwanted spam, and only trash traffic to your site. which is what is happening right now on facebook, check out my article facebook spam slam for more details. Of course if your niche is MLM or network marketing then you might benefit because you can build a list of gullible people who are attracted by your incredible offers.

Does it add Value?

What you always have to ask is does it add any value. Is what you are promoting giving anything away that will enrich people lives. This is what really differentiates a pyramid scheme from something that has truly gone viral. A viral scheme promotes itself based on its own quality. You have given people something of high enough value that the choose to promote it freely

It Doesn’t Need Pushing it Spread’s on its Own

It doesn’t need constant pushing to get it moving. It spreads because what it is offering is interesting to people and people tell others about it because they enjoyed or benefited. Viral schemes work best when there is no self interest from the referrer it then becomes true word of mouth and social proof rather than affiliate promotion, not that there is anything wrong with affiliate marketing its just that it is not Viral no matter what people try and tell you.

A Pyramid Scheme

Years ago when my dad was made redundant from his Job, he got pulled into an MLM marketing scheme, designed to sell powdered milk. It came from New Zealand and It was actually a great product, it tasted just like normal milk when it was made up and It might possibly have been a success if large supermarkets hadn’t begun selling huge containers of milk for such low prices.

Financial Investment Required

In order to participate my Dad had to pay quite a large sum of money to get all the promotional material, training manuals containers and products. It seemed quite a lot of money for what he actually received, Now he had to go and convince all his friends that they should change their milk drinking habits and buy from him instead of the local milk man (England still had milk delivered daily in those days)

Failure is often Inevitable

I knew my dad was going to fail right from the start, and I think this is what is so sad about most pyramid schemes. Firstly although he had quite a large network of friends and contacts he didn’t have enough who might be interested to join his down line or become regular repeat customers, they might buy once to humour him or just to escape the awkward situation but He is also not a sales type person. I don’t believe he was passionate enough about this product in order to convince others that they should buy it. His motivation was to make money so his opinions were always biased and people could always sense this when he was making his presentations. He also didn’t have the determination to keep at it when things didn’t go as well as he had been promised and so after a couple of months he gave up and we were left drinking up the remains of his product stockpile.

Who takes all the Risk?

This is probably quite a typical example. The company who manufactured this product had hoped that it would go viral since it was very good for people with allergies and worked out cheaper than normal milk. They chose a way to test and promote it that put the burden of the advertising cost on the shoulders of the agents. They extracted money out of people who were often desperate or in difficult financial circumstances and sold them dreams of riches and success. What they forgot to tell everyone is that unless you are a pushy sales type person who can convince and persuade others to join or to buy your product then you actually stand no real chance of making a go of it.

Is it Unethical?

There is something deeply unethical about this type of dealing and which is why I always steer clear of any MLM type offer. Its not that I couldn’t become very successful at it, I probably could, I just wouldn’t want my success built on other peoples failures. I suspect that most people involved in MLM and Pyramid Schemes would not see It this way because they have to convince themselves that the goods and services are of great benefit. They fail to see the underlying mathematics that governs these things and sell people something that they don’t really need or convince them to join a down line without giving them the necessary training they need to succeed.

Win-Win or Lose-Lose?

Most MLM and Pyramid schemes that require an upfront investment to join have always got their bases covered. If you are successful they are happy because you make them more money. If you fail they are happy because you are the one who is carrying the burden of risk and they have all their costs covered by your initial investment.

Viral Wannabees

MLM and Pyramid schemes are always going to be “Viral Wannabees” but they rarely ever really go viral because of the way they are structured, a virus needs to be able to perpetuate and reproduce itself once it has left the parent or host. Any MLM or pyramid scheme that claims to have a viral effect built in is probably lying. Unless they give you all the components to set up your own identical business that could run independently from the original company and you could replicate their marketing strategies without being dependant on them for a key product or resource then you will always be vulnerable and if the parent company fails so do you. What this would be is typified by a franchise and franchises definitely can and do go viral quite easily. A franchise is something totally different, Here you get to be independent and keep all your profits you just buy the blueprint and learning curve from those who have gone before and also get instant brand recognition.

You have to Pay your Dues

If you succeed in MLM then you have to constantly pay your dues along the umbilical up line to people who have done little to deserve it. They profit from your hard work. Of course you can get the same benefits from those below you, which is what makes this type of business proposition so attractive. The people who will always fail are the greedy and the lazy and these are who the marketing of most disreputable companies is aimed at. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great network marketing opportunities and I am sure there are some great companies, but did you every meet any Amway millionaires. You an get moderate success if you have the right type of personality and you enjoy selling and being social. But the statistics show that almost all of the people who start out eventually fail.

Not all MLM’s are the same

To be fair, I don’t want to paint all MLM and network marketing companies with the same brush. I just want people to be more aware of what they are getting into before they sign up. I think extra care needs to be taken in the make money/get more traffic schemes. You need to look carefully to see just how the company proposes to add value to you and to your future customers, some may provide you excellent tools and training but If you can’t clearly see where that value is then it is probably nothing more than a pyramid chain letter trying to scam you. If the company is selling physical products, make sure you try them out yourself first for at least a month, and only put your money if you feel that they live up to their claims and that you can wholeheartedly endorse them. People will always sense your authenticity when you make a pitch or presentation so you need to be sure you fully believe in what you are promoting.

In part two of this article I will discuss a personal story about a product that I knew was going to make it big and how I still to this day passionately endorse it

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