The Viral Path Less Travelled

In December, the Vancouver interactive marketing agency smashLAB got hits in the press press and a few in the minor press for its social networking site,, in which people can list 5 things they’re passionate about as a way to start conversations. Both the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle mentioned the company in stories. The Washington Post reprinted an article from TechCrunch that carried an elevator pitch for the service from Eric Karjaluoto. Like many social networking sites, MakeFive depends on advertising for income, so driving traffic to the site is important. That’s where the marketing comes in. So there’s a lesson here for all social networking businesses, right? It’s easy. Ahh, not so fast. According to Karjaluoto, it took a lot of hard, frustrating work. He and his team have been pestering TechCrunch, the online authority in the startup/technology world, for a year to feature MakeFive. Thousands of other new businesses had the same idea, apparently, so MakeFive didn’t exactly get a great hearing. Or, for that matter, any hearing at all. But Karjaluoto and his team have been using social media extensively to market MakeFive, and so have learned a few lessons along the way. One is to take the path less traveled in order to be noticed. So, when TechCrunch started featuring 60-second elevator pitches last summer, the MakeFive crew found a camera, and put Karjaluoto front and centre with a funny and interesting pitch. Tech Crunch liked it and featured it just before the Holidays. And said a few nice things about the service. Did all this notice overwhelm the MakeFive servers with business? No, it only resulted in a few signups. But more importantly, it established awareness of the service that will increase as others pick it up over time. “I’d caution anyone planning on ‘going viral’ in the marketing world to plan for the long haul,” Karjaluoto says. “You really have to work hard and be persistent to get your message heard. It’s like building a mountain with single grains of sand.”