Online marketing is big business; companies are willing to spend a vast amount of money and man-hours on flash campaigns to spread the message of their brand. But what if you could get the same results (or better) in the time it takes to drink your morning cappuccino and without spending a cent?!

The most recent social media phenomenon is the ‘No make-up selfie’ in aid of Cancer Research. Females take a ‘selfie’ (named ‘The word of 2013’ by the Oxford Dictionary!), post it on Facebook with a pledge to donate and then nominate a couple of friends to do the same. The charity made $2million in 48 hours!

You may assume that this was a cleverly executed marketing plan…but actually, the charity admitted that they had no involvement whatsoever! It’s the modern day chain mail and a new way of being heard above the ‘noise’ …by getting the social media community to do the work for you!

People like to feel like they are part of a ‘club’, to be part of the latest craze, and in this case contributing to society as well which brings a sense of self-fulfillment. It’s marketing genius - not only is the charity raising funds and spreading awareness across the world, it’s not having to tuck into the fundraising or marketing budget. Social media is a means of ‘belonging’ and becoming part of something potentially massive.

So if it’s this easy why isn’t everyone doing it? The issue is that it’s almost impossible to predict what will trigger a viral reaction. Which posts get your attention enough for you to engage and share with others?

Some statistics to put into context just how one idea or message can spread…Facebook alone boasts 1.23 billion monthly users, or about one-sixth of the world’s population. Those users have made 201.6 billion friend connections and clicked the ‘like’ button 3.4 trillion times. And that’s just one social media tool (I read that there are over 400 in regular use!).

This new way of marketing in the digital era has the potential to connect to a mass audience; it’s all about reaching high numbers quickly. ‘Going viral’ is fantastic, but isn’t always necessary. We’ve always said, it’s quality not quantity! After all, if every bit of content reached these proportions wouldn’t it take the impact out of all content?

What’s most important is that the people that are most important to you and your business receive your message. The content needs to be tailored to appeal to a certain demographic, the core audience, and to develop, maintain and grow that customer base. How do you do this? By identifying your customer, forming a relationship and modifying the content to engage with their interests and their needs. With a strong customer relationship alongside a strong brand identity, who knows how far your message will reach? Who is to say that it doesn’t take off and go viral anyway…?

Lucy Helliwell (make up free at the beach!)