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Posted on 08.19.2010

The Power of Hitting "Forward"

I am not one to “forward.”

I approach the “forward” button in my email software in a manner similar to how I approached Kenny Niles (name changed to protect the innocent) in seventh grade: with a combination of shyness, modesty, uncertainty and nausea. I’m not sure which of those human conditions affects me the most as my mouse hovers over the sacred “forward,” but it reminds me of grade school every time. Will someone (anyone?) else think this message I’m about to forward is funny/interesting/poignant/useful? Am I presumptuous to ask this close friend/family member/colleague to take a minute or two to watch this video/view this slideshow/read this fascinating story/link to this charity? Do I really want to encourage other people to send me “forwards” by sending them “forwards?” As a result of this self-doubt (and for a host of other less-paranoid reasons) I don’t often “forward.” That said, I am a sucker for a good viral campaign – whether it’s planned (like Burger King’s subservient chicken – perhaps my all time favorite) or not (like the Heinz family wedding).  I sent the Evian babies to half of my address book; I forwarded the Mayo clinic piano video to the other half.  And because I don’t often “forward,” when I do pass one along, you know it’s good.  My sister says she trusts my messages are “forward-worthy” even before she opens them. Viral marketing – even social media, for that matter - is akin to multi-level sales programs. One good, monumentously creative idea needs only a large handful of initial recipients to “seed” the viral propagation process; from there, every “forward” kicks a benefit back up the email chain to the originators.  In fact, if you think about it (or even better, do the math), if each person in a “seed” group of 500 forwards an email to just two other people, your message reaches almost 32,000 recipients in just five rounds of “forwards” (or in the case of  Old Spice, your sales message reaches about 4 million viewers in just under a month – without any paid advertising expense).  Pepper in the power of Facebook or YouTube and your clever idea penetrates even further. Granted, not every company on the internet is BlendTec, but if your company is on the internet - if you’re doing enewsletters and maybe Facebook or a company blog - don’t overlook or underestimate the power of leveraging your messages across those media.  The potential can be exponential. What’s the last thing you forwarded?

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