Is it a disease? Is it contagious? Well, no and yes. Viral marketing is meant to be "contagious"-it's the powerful word-of-mouth process that takes place on the Internet because of the speed of e-mail and the global access of posting boards.
Marketers have learned that a consumer is much more likely to respond to information from a trusted family member or friend before responding to an advertisement. So grassroots marketing helps to generate more "trustworthy" messages about a business, product or service.
The best way to spread positive word-of-mouth? Create a valuable site that offers quality information, conveniences, useful features-anything that gives any visitor a good reason to pass your Web site address on to someone they know.
Do bribes work? Well, yes and no. Creating a referral program or rewards for members or visitors who refer their friends and family to your site can be effective. But ultimately, the site has to deliver for everyone to feel satisfied.
Aliza Sherman is an entrepreneur and author of Cybergrrl: A Woman's Guide to the World Wide Web (Ballantine Books). She is currently working on her next book and new company.