Some people hate viral marketing and view it as a much-abused sales technique. This belief arises from the confusion many people have over the difference between viral marketing and so-called “junk e-mail” campaigns. In fact, many viral marketing schemes do rely to greater or lesser extent on getting individual users to forward e-mails out to large groups of other people.
The key to avoiding this perception’ which can and will eventually lead to methods to ban or at least stymie the effectiveness of viral marketing campaigns’ is include offerings that have interest and value to the end-users, even those who choose not to participate. This is again one area in which the Hotmail campaign succeeded so very well because even people who did not sign up for the service were often getting benefits from being able to communicate with friends who otherwise might not have an e-mail carrier or account with which to share.
Perhaps one of the greatest threats for successful viral marketing campaigns is the increase in “Malware” software or links that cause harmful additions to users systems such as pop-ups, slowdowns and redirects on Internet pages. While some are legitimate attempts to gain market share or public attention, poor programs and links can cause great harm. And of course, the public has reacted adversely. Now, many potentially successful viral marketing campaigns have been restricted or even fouled by public skepticism and fear.
Malware and viruses are so prevalent that the public is often either overwhelmed and doesn’t even try to protect themselves or goes so far overboard that they refuse to even open or read e-mail messages from sources that they do not recognize. Neither approach is sound. But the latter, of course, will ruin any chance to market a new product or idea to these people by using e-mail as a communication method.
The malware issue looms so large, that antivirus companies are now circulating lists of NON-harmful virus hoaxes along with the names of misunderstood programs the public fears. Why? They want to teach computer users the difference between perceived threats and real threats.