Viral marketing is any strategy that encourages people to send a marketing message on to others. It is, by definition, free or at minimal cost to the business owner...so it's cheap and it's considered to be one of the most effective methods of advertising! So, you're saying to yourself..."how do I do this for my Etsy shop??"
First, let me clarify what viral marketing is with an example we all will relate to: the forwarded email. If you have an email account, you've gotten one of these. Some have pictures of puppies, others tell you that you will win the lottery if you send this to 12 of your friends....sound familiar? Yep! Well, that is viral marketing in a nutshell. Most people will think the puppy is cute (I always do!) and send it to their other puppy loving friends, and they send it to their friends who send it to their friends who...well, you get the idea. Before you know it your puppy email has traveled across the globe to thousands of puppy loving people.
The best advice I can give you is to wholeheartedly believe in your product and / or service. You have to believe in your heart that people will benefit from the use of your product and therefore will benefit from being informed about it. So many sellers I meet are tied down with the thought "My art isn't good enough, isn't anything people would want". Get that thought out of your head right now! Is it gone? Good. Now we can continue.
Next, you have to come up with a great idea. That's the hard part...However, here are some elements of Viral Marketing that ususally produce a successful campaign:
1. Make it funny. If the recipient gets a laugh out of it, there's a good chance it's going to be forwarded / mentioned to others-think the "I'm a PC / I'm a Mac" commercial.
2. Make it informative. This one's tough, and won't work for all niches, but a lot of people will pass on a "did you know that..." This one is really well suited to causes or if you donate a % of your sales to a charity.
3. Make it exclusive. People like to believe they are part of something that not everyone is included in. The "popular"crowd, the VIP room, first class, etc. This is a "cool" factor. Very hard to create. If you are successful in this, PLEASE leave a comment!
4. Make it cute. Puppies + babies + children, yeah we are all suckers for this. Everyone needs a cute baby animal break! My fave is the puppy peeing on the computer that I have been emailed 1000's of times. It never gets old, and I always forward it.
Actual Ideas for a Viral Marketing Campaign:
1. Create an email to send to all of your friends and ask them to forward it on.
2. Create a button that links back to your blog and ask your readers to put it on their blogs / sites.
3. Start a contest that requires your readers to nominate another shop. Then, require that the nominee be notified and must nominate at least one other shop as well (and notify them) the nominee isn't offically nominated until they post their nominee.
4. Video games: star in your own you tube video about Etsy...however, have something unusual happen in the background and ask people to identify what it is or hide something that people have to find.
5. Multi-blog scavenger hunt: Get a group of bloggers together and ask if you can "hide" links on their blogs. Each link goes to the next blog where participants have to find the next hidden link. Eventually, they end up back on your blog and there should be a prize involved. this is a win / win for all the bloggers involved!
There are plenty of other ideas out there too. Just google "viral marketing ideas" or if you are really clever, come up with a new one no one has tried yet! Good Luck!