Gmail’s Successful Viral Marketing Campaign
gmail beta
Gmail initially started as an invitation-only release on April 1, 2004 and it ended up being a five-year beta phase. During that time, users were given an allotment of invites. It made you think, “Who are my coolest 25 friends that I want to share this with? In 2004, having email with a storage capacity of 1 GB was unheard of, and Google’s competitors such as AOL and Hotmail only offered 2-4 MB at that time. To be invited was a game changer for many. Invitations were even being sold on the black market…

What is viral marketing?

Viral marketing is an idea that spreads… and an idea that while it is spreading actually helps market your business or cause. – Seth Goodin

Surely I knew of Google as a search engine back in 2004, but this Gmail invite made me feel like I was part of an elite experiment. Like Ferrari asking you to test drive one of their cars, who wouldn’t jump at the chance. The power in it was intoxicating, and better yet, it was free!  When they issued more invites, oh boy… you couldn’t wait to invite all your other friends.  Genius.

<< I’ve learned a crucial truth about human nature, that people crave recognition. If you can tie that human desire into your business model by giving your customer base recognition, you build fans, and ambassadors.  In the case of this Gmail beta test, I shared the message because it was free, and it empowered you. The invitation was recognition, a golden nugget if you will. The invite feature allowed you to pass it on. Brilliant! I’ve been a fan of Google apps ever since.

Can your business develop a product or service worth sharing in such a viral fashion?

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