Viral Marketing

From ViralMarketingWiki, the free encyclopedia

Viral Marketing
Category Marketing
Method Seductive Marketing
Science Neuroscience

Viral marketing refers to any marketing technique that induces people to pass on a marketing message to other people or web sites, creating a potentially exponential growth in the message's visibility and effect. It is the word-of-mouth phenomana enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral marketing may take the form of email, video clips, interactive games, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages.

Viral Marketing is based on effects studied in the social sciences, particularly psychology, sociology, and economics. The goal of a viral marketer is to create "buzz" about a product or idea, so that the idea spreads widely. If effective, viral marketing may require very little effort on the part of the propagandist, as the recipients of the message become the primary agents who spread it to other people. Initially viral marketers identify individuals with high social networking potential and create viral messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being passed along.



Among the first to write about viral marketing on the Internet was media critic Douglas Rushkoff in his 1994 book Media Virus. The assumption is that if such an advertisement reaches a "susceptible" user, that user will become "infected" (i.e., accept the idea) and will then go on to share the idea with others "infecting them," in the viral analogy's terms. As long as each infected user shares the idea with more than one susceptible user on average (i.e., the basic reproductive rate is greater than one - the standard in epidemiology for qualifying something as an epidemic), the number of infected users will grow according to a logistic curve, whose initial segment appears exponential. Of course, the marketing campaign may be wildly successful even if the rate at which things are spread isn't of epidemic proportions, if this user-to-user sharing is sustained by other forms of marketing communications, such as public relations or advertising.

Among the first to write about algorithms designed to identify people with high Social Networking Potential is Bob Gerstley in Advertising Research is Changing. Gerstley uses SNP algorithms in quantitative marketing research to help marketers maximize the effectiveness of viral marketing campaigns. In 2004 the concept of Alpha User was released to indicate that it had become now possible to technically isolate the focal point members of any viral campaign, the "hubs" who are most influential. Alpha Users can today be isolated and identified, and even targeted for viral advertising purposes most accurately in mobile phone networks, as mobile phones are so personal.


Viral marketing strategies are very different but almost alsways contain the six basic components below. A viral marketing strategy need not contain ALL these elements, but the more elements it embraces, the more powerful the results are likely to be. An effective viral marketing strategy:

  • Gives away products or services
  • Provides for effortless transfer to others
  • Scales easily from small to very large
  • Exploits common motivations and behaviors
  • Utilizes existing communication networks
  • Takes advantage of others' resources

Viral vs. Seductive Marketing

Viral marketing is referring to tactical approaches of spreading the word, while seductive marketing is the psychological model and method of persuasion that is used in viral marketing, guerrilla marketing, stealth marketing and traditional marketing. In the seductive marketing model a marketer uses highly targeted marketing techniques to influence a prospect's "buying temperature" towards a positive buying or viral spreading decision thus strengthening its viral effect.


The classic example of viral marketing is, one of the first free Web-based e-mail services. The strategy is simple:

  • Give away free e-mail addresses and services,
  • Attach a simple tag at the bottom of every free message sent out: "Get your private, free email at" and,
  • Then stand back while people e-mail to their own network of friends and associates,
  • Who see the message,
  • Sign up for their own free e-mail service, and then
  • Propel the message still wider to their own ever-increasing circles of friends and associates.
Like tiny waves spreading ever farther from a single pebble dropped into a pond, a carefully designed viral marketing strategy ripples outward extremely rapidly. Other non internet examples include:
  • Rumours
  • Chain letters with warnings
  • "Leaked" information
  • Gossip
  • Urban myths

See also

Further Reading

  • Jack Barrow: Satanic Viruses - The fall of the Roman Empire and how to bring it about, 1989
  • Seth Godin: Unleashing the ideavirus, 2001
  • Emanuel Rosen: The Anatomy of Buzz, 2002
  • Susannah Gardner: Buzz Marketing with Blogs For Dummies, 2005
  • Mark Hughes: Buzzmarketing: Get People to Talk About Your Stuff, 2005
  • Ron McDaniel: Buzzoodle Buzz Marketing, 2006
  • Stefano Calicchio: Pass the Virus! How to exploit the viral marketing to give an uproarious success to your own ideas, 2006

External Links

Date and time
  • Thursday 26th of May 2016 09:25:19 PM