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Launching Your Marketplace

Owned, Paid, and Earned Media for Viral Marketing

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It is the dream of every marketer to spread the word of their brand in the hopes of getting their content to go viral. The term “viral marketing” has been called many others, such as “word-of-mouth” and “generate buzz”, but viral marketing has stuck throughout digital and offline platforms.

In this chapter, we explore the tips and tricks you can leverage to market your startup. Starting with creating viral content for your marketplace, we take a look at the various types of media, namely: Owned Media, Paid Media and most importantly, Earned Media.

Viral marketing

Viral Marketing is both effective and efficient. By relying on customers to spread the word, you are essentially reaching out to people similar to your target audience! Essentially, viral marketing is dependent on two variables: time and the number of new users each user generates. With these in mind, how do you come up with a campaign that catches fire?

Create a strong emotional response

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge spread like wildfire online, with many celebrities and key figures like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah joining in for the social cause (Source).

Viral campaigns often evoke strong emotional reactions from their audience. Regardless of awe, shock, sympathy, pity or curiosity, the internet has been subjected to a wide variety of emotions. One way to inspire such emotions is to highlight a social cause that your marketplace advocates. For example, the ALS Association raised over $100 million dollars simply by asking people to dump a bucket of ice water on themselves and to “challenge” their friends to do likewise, all for a social cause.

Share unique opinions on trending topics

Utilising your marketing channels, you could share your own opinions on trending topics related to your marketplace idea. The idea is to create something that will make people stop, turn and notice you. You could stand out by raising attention on a social topic, then devote your marketplace to helping that cause.

Be familiar with your audience

Most importantly, for any viral marketing campaign to succeed, you’d need to have a clear idea of who your audience is. Make sure that your campaign is targeted so that it resonates with them. Know what they’re looking for so that you can stay on trend and provide a unique and customised campaign for them. Then push it out towards them on all available channels. It is pointless if your message doesn’t reach the audience, even if you have great viral content.

Identifying the appropriate channels is crucial for efficiency and effectiveness. What channels are available for marketing your marketplace? We’ve divided up the various options into the 3 different sections. You could start with owned media channels, use paid media options to enhance your reach, then close the leads with your earned media.

Owned media

Owned media refers to any channel that your marketplace owns. This provides a platform where you can share your own content without relying on others.

Build a blog

When writing for your target audience, it is important to focus on content that they want to read, not content that you want them to read. Starting a blog will require a substantial time investment. You can come up with a variety of content: infographics, case studies, white papers or even videos.

With every article that you write, you should be able to understand what works for your audience and what doesn’t, refining your topics, content and style of writing as you go on. It is hard work, but good content can drive traffic to your marketplace, increasing the network effects.

Email marketing

Email marketing can be both useful or detrimental to your marketing campaign. If used wrongly, email can be considered as spam or annoyance to your customers, driving them away from your marketplace. However, it can also be a powerful tool to launch content, push customers through the funnel and tackle cart abandonment in your marketplace. Before you send an email, step into your audience’s shoes and consider “would I want to receive this email?”

Reach your audience with social media

Social media works as more than a platform for sharing content and promoting your marketplace. One of the key functions across all social media platforms is the ability to engage and connect with your customers.

This allows you to build relationships and gather feedback about your marketplace, helping you to refine your idea and improve the next iteration. Similarly, social media is also a powerful public relations tool which you can leverage to defuse critical situations.

Paid media

Although your startup marketplace could be running on a tight budget, paid media can help your marketing efforts be more effective and efficient. Consider the return on investment (ROI) — it’d be unwise to ignore a paid advertisement that could acquire 100 new paying customers.

Social media advertising

With over 2 billion people using social networks today, advertising on these platforms can help you to reach even more people, enhancing your organic reach. Various platforms offer highly targeted options for their advertisements, allowing you to segment your audience surgically, crafting customized messages that will convert. Also, it is good practice to test various types of ads to see what works and what doesn’t, streamlining your budget further.

Google AdWords

Being the number 1 search engine, Google is your marketplace’s best hope of getting found by customers. Target keywords and phrases that your target audience would use to find your marketplace, improving your search visibility and eventually acquiring more customers.

Earned media

Earned media is the holy grail of marketing. It refers to any form of publicity generated by your supporters, fans, customers or even partners. It is incredibly useful as people often believe in social proof. People trust their friends’ recommendations; they don’t trust paid advertisements that scream “I am sponsored”.

Here are some amazing tips to generate a buzz with earned media:

Meet your influencers

The size and quality of your personal network can define your marketing success. Your influencers are the largest noise-makers for your marketplace. You can leverage on their networks to push your message out to an even wider audience than would be possible via owned or paid media. Meeting them begins with being in the same social space as them. Engage them, and keep them as valuable contacts stored in your phonebook.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Apart from having Google AdWords to drive search traffic to your marketplace, SEO is another strong tool to leverage on. The goal is for your marketplace to appear when people are searching for what your marketplace provides. You are helping them find what they are looking for, providing a win-win situation for both. However, be prepared to invest time and effort to develop your search rankings as it can take weeks or months for the results to show.


A successful marketing strategy for your marketplace takes time and effort to carefully construct and execute. Often, you may find contrasting results between your marketplace and those mentioned here. Find your own marketing strategy, and determine which tips and tricks work for your marketplace. Start with your owned media before trying out paid options to enhance your reach and gain more earned media.

After reading our article, these are the questions that should pique your interest:
How can your marketplace achieve viral status?
Have you tried building your owned media marketing channels? Paid media is only a means to an end, supporting your owned media.
Try out all the strategies discussed in this chapter. What works and what doesn’t?

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