One of the most cost effective ways to promote a business is to use viral marketing techniques. So what exactly IS Viral Marketing and how can we use it?

Put simply, viral marketing is a way of spreading your message is such a way that it gets passed on and on and on. It can be done via the social web or email, as in the case of jokes or funny video clips, or using software downloads and ebooks. All of these methods make it simple for the viewer to pass on with little or no cost.

Most businesses are already using some form of viral marketing in their promotion efforts without actually realizing it. See, the oldest form of viral marketing is simply word of mouth. Unfortunately, some companies have learned to their cost that bad publicity usually spreads faster than the good stuff!

So in order to use viral marketing effectively it needs to be planned and monitored properly.

Let’s take an imaginary hotel and see how they could create viral marketing material to promote their service.

They could create an ebook or report about their location that is packed with exciting places to visit on the area, but as this has probably already been done to death online, they need to add a twist to make it viral. For example, they could feature places off the beaten track that the tourist would never otherwise get to see. This alone would make it worth passing on to friends or family who are planning a similar trip.

But to make it truly worth passing on, why not add a few links to books such as the Lonely Planet guides or phrasebooks. Include a few Amazon.com links and then make the ebook brandable so that the referrer actually gets the commission for any Amazon sales!

With around a million amazon.com affiliates, you are sure to reach more than a few who would like to earn money to pass on your ebook via their own website, email or newsletter.

So in reality, you are “paying” people to pass on your ebook. That is a pretty good incentive!

They could also create a video clip of the best beaches, places to visit or nightlife in the area and then post copies on the many video sites. For the more technical minded, create a self contained flash demo that has multimedia content about the area. Of course it also has a link to your website. Make it interesting and make it unique and it will get passed around.

All you need to do now is adapt these ideas to suit your particular target market and then spread the word.