Viral Messages

Viral Messages

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4578-3.ch005
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Abstract

Internet mercenary marketing entails both precision business practice and creative art. The operational model described in the previous chapter is mainly based on business science and IT technology which deal in such terms as mathematical calculations, categories of users, digital metrics and so on. However, there is a crucial part in the operation that involves art – the creativity to build a message that contains virusworthiness. The virusworthiness is defined as qualities in a message intended for viral marketing that is able to ignite a spontaneous transmission among individual users through the network. This chapter focuses on the process of creative design, specifically the essential issue of how a message can be created to be so compelling that it spreads like wildfire in SNSs.
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Introduction

Internet mercenary marketing entails both precision business practice and creative art. The operational model described in the previous chapter is mainly based on business science and IT technology which deal in such terms as mathematical calculations, categories of users, digital metrics and so on. However, there is a crucial part in the operation that involves art – the creativity to build a message that contains virusworthiness. The virusworthiness here is defined as qualities in a message intended for viral marketing that is able to ignite a spontaneous transmission among individual users through the network. Chapter 4 illustrates a chart of Internet mercenary operational model. This chapter also focuses on the process of creative design, specifically the essential issue of how a message can be created to be so compelling that it spreads like wildfire in SNSs.

Horton (2002) points out that viral marketing is very popular and many companies have tried it, most of them with some or no success at all. The nature of viral marketing depends on several factors. Firstly it includes randomness. It is difficult to know exactly where a viral message will go or who will read it. Potentially it might be seen by millions of people in a specifically targeted audience or on the other hand it might be read by the people it was not intended for. A viral message could be powerful for the simple reason that the message is credible solely because of the person who sends it. Each person who sends a message is basically saying that, “I think this is interesting, and in my opinion you will probably find it interesting too.” Secondly there is the factor of voluntary action. Virtually all viral marketing techniques depend on the voluntary action of the sender. A person has to discover something that is interesting enough and/or important enough to send it voluntarily to others. Those people in turn have to find the message interesting enough and important enough to forward it to others on their network. It is important to note that the action of sending and forwarding messages is done without any incentives; i.e. the people who send these messages do not get any monetary or other benefits from their actions. Such actions are usually motivated by pure interest on the part of the sender. Thirdly viral marketing is classified into passive or active marketing. Passive marketing is defined simply as the audience spreading the message by merely using the service or product. As mentioned previously, this was the technique that Hotmail used to spread the news of its free email service. Hotmail included a link with every outgoing email message encouraging users to sign up for a free e-mail account. Active marketing on the other hand is defined as the direct involvement of the sender to communicate the message to other users. For example, when a friend asks you to download specific and complicated antivirus software, the interchange could take a number of back and forth email messages before the download is complete. Downloading a complicated software programme can use up the better part of a workday and requires a number of extra steps on the part of both participants.

From the above, it is clear that viral messages depend on basic motivations and behaviors, which are very subjective. The message has to be both credible (i.e. believable) and compelling, and these two features pertain directly to the contents of the message itself. How does a user decide whether the contents of a message are credible and compelling or not? What makes a message credible and compelling?

Horton (2002) suggests that in order for a message to be compelling for users to take advantage of and forward it to others who in turn forward it to others and so on, the message should: 1) Offer something for free – a desirable software, concert tickets, etc.; 2) Offer something with high entertainment value. These could include a limited time offer for games, movie clips, trailers of forthcoming movies; 3) Offer something which the consumer will find useful. For example, Microsoft upgrades, new software, etc.; 4) Disseminate warnings. For example let users know about a new computer virus; and 5) Send something unique and something that the user has not seen before. A very good example of this uniqueness is the YouTube video about a school bus monitor that went viral in a matter of a few short weeks (see below).

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