From the September 2010 issue of Entrepreneur

Lessons From the Old Spice ManThey were the two days that shook the viral marketing world: Back in July, Old Spice, a decidedly old-school Procter & Gamble brand, unleashed a social media blitz so profoundly brilliant that it not only changed the rules of social network marketing, it may have written them for the first time.

Chances are, you're one of the millions who watched at least one of the YouTube videos by Isaiah Mustafa, the shirtless baritone who plays the very manly Old Spice Man in TV commercials. You probably also dismissed the Old Spice phenomenon as an oddity of riches--something only a marketing behemoth like P&G could exploit. But dissect the campaign's principles and practices, and you'll find it's not only entirely applicable to the small-business owner, but an essential (and low-cost) opportunity as well. Let's take a look inside.

Create a strong persona
You need a character who captures your brand positioning and inspires people to interact. The Old Spice Man appeals to women (hey, most men don't wear a scent to please other men) but uses insult humor that appeals to men. You can go for a humorous persona, but make sure you can sustain it. Otherwise, hire a comic to play the role. People will think it's you, only funnier. And remember: Humor may not be the best option for your business. Your character might provide service, empathy, advocacy or be full-on-raving crazy. Only you know what's right.

Seed social networks
Ask people to play along through Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. A gym might invite people enter a Biggest Loser-type weight-loss contest and let others cheer them on.

A wine shop might take questions on matching food with wine and let noteworthy chefs provide answers and recipes.

Engage the influencers
Try to involve anyone with a following--celebrities, a local newscaster, bloggers. Every blogger or celebrity who got a response from the Old Spice Man wrote about it. It was a badge of honor.

Personalize the response
Make the exchange personal and everyone will want a shout-out. That is at the core of the Old Spice phenomenon. People started competing to have witty or provocative questions, so that the Old Spice Man would respond to them. Thousands did not get a reply (180 of them did, in near real-time). And the ones who didn't kept trying harder to impress the Man.

Keep the videos simple and short
The Old Spice Man never left the bathroom, never looked anywhere but right at the camera, never even changed his posture. There is power in familiarity. He also never put on his shirt, but that's another column.