With consumers showing increasing resistance to traditional forms of advertising such as TV and newspaper advertisements, marketers have sought to develop alternative strategies, among which Viral Marketing (VM) is the most intriguing. VM has become the defining marketing trend of the decade, with its brief history compared to other forms of advertising techniques. The rise of VM could only be facilitated with the proliferation of broadband access in the 1990s when the internet became accessible for commercial purposes that it became a feasible advertising technique. Consider the success of Hotmail story, one that has been reported extensively has achieved nothing short of a worldwide contagion. (Wilson 2000)
Sharing online content is an integral part of modern life. In recent years, the emergence of social media has become the most common internet-based activity. An online social networking site is defined as a group of internet-based application that allows creation and exchange of User Generated Content. (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010) It is an umbrella term characterizing different types of applications which include blogs/micro-blogs(eg Twitter), social networking sites( eg Facebook) and content communities(eg Youtube).
It usually involves a collection of user profiles where registered members can place information that they want to share with others. Users can add other users to their network of contacts. Usually one user initiates the invitation, and the other user accepts or rejects the request. When accepted, the two profiles become linked. The resulting network is referred to as a “Friend Network”.
VM exploits existing social networks by encouraging customers to share product information with their friends through Electronic Word-of-Mouth (eWOM). With the internet, consumers can potentially reach and influence peers on a global scale, making power of eWOM exponentially greater than traditional WOM. Users are typically involved in either creating new content (eg adding photos /videos) or consuming content that others create. They forward newspaper articles and pass Youtube videos to their family and friends. Indeed, 59% of consumers regularly share online content with others (Allsop et al 2007).
While acknowledging that some viral videos may achieve enviable share on purely organic term (eg Susan Boyle Britain’s Got Talent 2009; Charlie Bit My Finger 2007), there are other numerous successful VM campaigns that are online paid-for advertising in a different guise.
Brands big and small launch viral videos via YouTube, post new product information on their Facebook pages, court the blogosphere, WOM now spreads at the speed of thought. (Ferguson 2008) Consider ‘Gangnam Style’ Youtube video which contains satirical lyrics about the habits of wealthy South Koreans and features choreography mimicking horse riding, passed 1 billion views on December 21 2012, just over five months after debuting. It is the first...