Posted by Jay Wilkinson

A few years ago, I got an email from a friend who was helping organize a big vote in the city of Lincoln where I live. It was about a new arena that the city is building—a $200 million project. Voters were divided over the issue. About half the community was really excited about it and the other half was skeptical, so there was a lot of campaigning going on.

My friend sent me this email, and the subject line simply read, “You must check out this website—hilarious.” The link included in the body of the email was,

Obviously I wanted to find out what this was about, so I clicked on the link, and the page I landed on said this:


That’s it. Just “YES”—and the date the polls would be open to vote.

It was an interesting, inexpensive use of technology and viral marketing. I called my friend after the election and asked him how many people ended up visiting that one-page website. I learned that it had received over 100,000 visitors. The number of people who got the original email with the link? Just 20 to 30.

It cost them less than $20 to register the domain name for a short time, have someone set up a one-page website (which is incredibly simple) and send a short email to a handful of people. For less than $20, they reached over 100,000 people.

Lesson learned: Viral marketing campaigns don’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, the simpler the better. The key is to motivate your audience, not manipulate them. Be creative, clever, provocative, and get your audience talking, then let them take it from there.

Whatever you do, don’t be boring. People don’t share boring.