Collecting the Internet So You Don't Have To

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How Not to Build a Viral Marketing System

Julian Moffatt
Julian Moffatt CEO / Partner
Visual Lizard
1 (204) 957-5520 ext:1
1 (888) 237-9559
Julian Moffatt Purveyor of Good Times - go. Sign up. Follow the tips they provide and start to reduce your carbon footprint. Then encourage others to do the same. However, don't do it with their viral marketing form on the site. Why you ask?

Well, let's take a look at an email that comes from their site if you refer a friend to join up.

This was the headers of the email:

From: 485273

Subject: Join the Virtual March!

Then, in the body of the email, we have the following:

485273 has joined the Virtual March on Washington to Stop Global Warming and hopes you will, too!

Click here to Join Now!

485273 says: Join the Virtual March!

The Stop Global Warming Virtual March is a non-partisan online effort to bring all Americans together to acknowledge that global warming is here now... and it is time to take action to stop it. It is urgent that we get involved now.

It affects everyone. Young, old, rich, poor, urban, rural, right wing, left wing, those in the middle. Global warming is a national security problem, an economic problem, and a public health problem. And it's not going to get better unless we act now.

...[clipped out boring, long winded famous people quotes]...

Our mission is to use the strength of our numbers to urge:
1) Our government to join the rest of the world in solving global warming, and
2) American business to start a new industrial revolution and develop clean energy products that will reduce our dependence on oil and other pollutants that contribute to global warming.

Alright, for you savvy web users out there, you can already see a problem here. I have signed up and joined the march. I have added my details to their system. My name is clearly there. So why does the email go out with my number - 485273 - splashed throughout?

Not only is this sure to get picked off and filtered out by almost everyones spam filter, the email itself it utterly meaningless to anyone. It provides no information about who sent this and it appears as if it is spam. Even the subject sucks, because unless you have heard of the Virtual March, you have no idea where this email is going. It could be a pharmaceutical ad for marching to bed with viagra.

If I could make a suggestion to the folks over at, it would be the following:

  1. Use the senders name, not their registraiton number.
  2. Rewrite the subject to something like - "Join the Virtual March at" - which would be both empowering and informative, as the recipient could see the stop global warming elements right in the subject.
  3. Remove the overly wordy body copy of the email (again, name - not number in there as well) and rewrite it to be clear. Put a little fear into it. The stat on the web site about the last 15 years containing the world's 9 hottest average planetary temperatures in recorded history is scary. Use it. Quick information scare followed by the mission and link to sign up. Short and sweet.

The web site itself is a great resource. The concept is perfect for the Internet. Starting grassroots movements like this and spreading them with viral marketing (encouraged marketing if you like) is easy to do, costs very little, is easy on the environment (not printing 2,000,000 flyers and sending 5,000,000 emails instead) and it can make a difference. So please fix your email system.

If you are having trouble, I am sure there are 25,000+ web professionals already signed up to the march that would be more than willing to donate a few hours to fix your email system. Heck, we would be more than happy to help you. Call us.