Viral marketing of digital products using social media - MBA Dissertation

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MBA Dissertation submitted to University of Edinburgh Business School.

Title - Viral Marketing of Digital Products using Social Media

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Viral marketing of digital products using social media - MBA Dissertation

  1. 1. Kapil Gupta Viral marketing of digital products using social mediaDissertation presented for the Degree of Masters of BusinessAdministration at the University of Edinburgh Business School, May 2011
  2. 2. AcknowledgementsI would like to thank my supervisor, Tony Kinder, for all of the help and guidance he hasgiven me over the course of the project, from the initial idea through the research andwriting stages through to the conclusion. It would have been impossible to complete thisproject without his assistance.I would also like to thank all of the interviewees, whose experiences and insights wereinvaluable in writing this report:Rachel ArmitageJenny HerbisonAndrew BurnettColin GilchristTera DargavelI would also like to thank all my friends and colleagues who tolerated me while I incessantlytalked about viral marketing and who sometimes even helped me brainstorm some ideas.Warm thanks to all of you,Kapil GuptaEdinburgh, May 2011MBA Dissertation Page 1
  3. 3. AbstractImprovements in hardware and software technologies like high speed internet, cloudcomputing, smaller and faster chips, have made social networking and mobile devicesubiquitous, which has in turn created a huge opportunity in digital products and servicesmarket. Marketers, in trying to use traditional word-of-mouth marketing concepts online for- aka viral marketing – for their digital products are realising that there is the potential ofexponential growth that can be achieved very quickly and very cheaply when compared tousing more traditional marketing channels. This report attempts to explore how marketerscould use viral marketing to market their digital products and realise this potentiallyexponential growth.In answering this question, this report draws on the results of primary and secondaryresearch, including four interviews conducted in March and April 2011 with professionalsfrom organisations dealing in digital products and social media marketing. Among the topicscovered in these interviews were identifying who can use viral marketing, strategic issuessurrounding viral marketing, specific characteristics that a products needs to have to beconsidered for viral marketing, creating and executing a viral marketing campaign, and howto make a viral marketing campaign sustainable.The research showed that all aspects of an organisation need to come together and work intandem to potentially achieve an exponential growth using a viral marketing campaign -from defining an overall business and marketing strategy, looking at company’s capabilities,putting crisis management in place, developing the right product which is social spreadfriendly, finding the right influencers in the relevant market channels, seeding theseinfluencers, monitoring the campaign, engaging with customers as they provide positive andnegative feedback, and all this while building momentum to a point where campaignpotentially goes viral.Research also shows the marketers need to be aware of the negative aspects of viralmarketing, as it could be catastrophic to a brand.MBA Dissertation Page 2
  4. 4. Drawing on these findings, the report then presents the five areas that marketers shouldconsider while using viral marketing to market digital products:  Overall business and marketing strategy  Human and system capabilities  Finding the right Influencers  Designing and developing a brilliant product  Creating and managing a campaign  Sustainability of viral marketing campaignMBA Dissertation Page 3
  5. 5. Table of ContentsAcknowledgements ....................................................................................................................................... 1Abstract .............................................................................................................................................................. 21. Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 6 1.1 Digital products ............................................................................................................................. 7 1.2 Social media and viral marketing ........................................................................................... 8 1.3 Viral marketing of digital products using social media ................................................. 92. Literature Review................................................................................................................................ 10 2.1 What is Social Media?................................................................................................................ 10 2.2 Social media classification ...................................................................................................... 11 2.3 What does Social Media means for marketers? .............................................................. 12 2.4 What is Viral Marketing? ......................................................................................................... 13 2.5 Advantages / Disadvantages of VM. .................................................................................... 14 2.6 Identifying the target audience for a viral marketing campaign. ............................ 15 2.7 Creating and executing a VM campaign - main characteristics. ............................... 17 2.8 Measuring effectiveness of a VM Campaign ..................................................................... 19 2.9 How to make a Viral Marketing campaign sustainable? ............................................. 20 2.10 Summary.................................................................................................................................... 203. Methodology.......................................................................................................................................... 22 3.1 Research approach..................................................................................................................... 22 3.2 Data collection methods .......................................................................................................... 23 3.3 Interview subjects ...................................................................................................................... 24 3.4 Secondary sources ..................................................................................................................... 25 3.5 Data analysis................................................................................................................................. 26 3.6 Research limitations .................................................................................................................. 26 3.7 Ethical considerations .............................................................................................................. 274. Empirical Material .............................................................................................................................. 28 4.1 Importance of strategy ............................................................................................................. 28 4.2 Important factors for viral messages .................................................................................. 30 4.3 Importance of influencers ....................................................................................................... 32 4.4 Executing a campaign ............................................................................................................... 35 4.5 Sustainability of a VM campaign ........................................................................................... 375. Analysis ................................................................................................................................................... 40 5.1 Viral Marketing ............................................................................................................................ 41 5.2 Strategy........................................................................................................................................... 42 5.3 Capabilities.................................................................................................................................... 43 5.4 Product ........................................................................................................................................... 44 5.5 Influencers .................................................................................................................................... 44 5.6 Creating a campaign .................................................................................................................. 45 5.7 Campaign management............................................................................................................ 46 5.8 Sustainability................................................................................................................................ 48 5.9 Summary ........................................................................................................................................ 486. Conclusion .............................................................................................................................................. 54 6.1 Summary of results .................................................................................................................... 54 6.2 Personal reflections ................................................................................................................... 56 6.3 Contribution to existing knowledge .................................................................................... 57MBA Dissertation Page 4
  6. 6. 6.4 Business lessons.......................................................................................................................... 57 6.5 Further research ......................................................................................................................... 58Bibliography................................................................................................................................................... 59Appendix A ..................................................................................................................................................... 66Appendix B ..................................................................................................................................................... 72Appendix C ...................................................................................................................................................... 81Appendix D ..................................................................................................................................................... 89Appendix E...................................................................................................................................................... 93Appendix F ...................................................................................................................................................... 94MBA Dissertation Page 5
  7. 7. 1. IntroductionThere is an explosion happening in the digital world, and Social Media is responsible for it.Not a day goes by without hearing something new about how hundreds of millions ofpeople are engaging in social media. Here are some examples:  Facebook (Mashable 2010) (Mashable 2011) o has almost 600m users. o 750 million photos were uploaded on Facebook on the new years (2010- 11) weekend. o is valued at $75 billion.  YouTube (OnlineSchools 2010) o streamed more than 700 billion videos in 2010 o 25 hours of content of was uploaded every minute in 2010  Twitter o has 175 million registered users o 100 million tweets daily.Venture Capitalists and other investors are flogging to invest in new and innovative socialmedia companies and device manufacturers are continuously coming up with new andsophisticated devices to provide a platform for people to engage in social media while onthe move.MBA Dissertation Page 6
  8. 8. The recent technological advancements - in mobile devices, multi-touch screens, cloudcomputing, and the advancements in the way we interact with the devices – has allowed thecompanies to deliver content and services in very easy, fast and interactive ways.With more and more people using social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, YouTubeetc., the way these products are being marketed is changing as well. For example, using viralmarketing, KIK - a cross platform mobile phone application was downloaded 1 million timesin just 15 days after its launch (KIK 2010). In another example, Viber was able to achieve 1million downloads in just 5 days (Appchronicles 2010). It has since amassed 10 million(Techcrunch 2011) downloads.This paper will look at how companies developing digital products could use social media todevelop and execute a viral marketing campaign.1.1 Digital productsIn 2002, Hui et al (Hui & Chau 2002) classified Digital products into three categories:  Tools and Utilities that assist user to accomplish specific goals or tasks  Content based products whose value lies in the information content  Online services that provide access to useful resources like server connections as well as online utilities that assist users in accomplishing specific tasksSince then, with the rise and adaptation of Web 2.0 technologies, digital products andservices have seen an explosion - both in terms of the numbers of products and services,and the number of consumers using them i.e. mobile platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs,YouTube, LinkedIn etc.), mobile applications (>300,000 apps on Apple AppStore with 10billion downloads), Cloud computing etc.This market is set to grow exponentially over the coming 5-10 years (Venturebeat 2010).Below are some data that support this trend:MBA Dissertation Page 7
  9. 9.  More and more mobile devices are being developed. For example -Motorola Xoom tablet, HP TouchPad etc.  The vast majority of developing world yet to adopt smart phones (India hasn’t even start deploying 3G infrastructure yet)  New business and revenue models are continuously emerging (Mobile Ad market was worth $877 million in the US alone and is predicted to rise to $3bn by 2013 (Kim 2010) )  The smart phone penetration is growing rapidly (Alarcon 2009) (Blandford 2010)This change is happening at a fast pace (Perez 2010) and there is little written about theparticular challenges in marketing the digital products, hence the reason to look at Digitalproducts specifically in this paper.1.2 Social media and viral marketingInternet has now become a virtual social world where we meet our friends and family, makenew friends, engage in conversation about work-life experience – including buying productsand services and the resulting experiences – engage in marketplace and listen to people wetrust when making buying decisions.When it comes to making decisions, people have always been influenced by their peers,group leaders and other influential people in society whose opinion they value. Marketershave long used Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing to influence the buying decisions in thephysical world. With the advent of Social Media, this conversation has gone online, and hasbecome global as there are no geographical barriers when it comes to the internet. Thereare now hundreds of millions (Bloch 2010) of people using Social Media makingconversations, posting their feelings and opinions, and influencing others with their ideasand experiences. WOM marketing in this virtual world has a new name, called ViralMarketing. However, virtual nature of this social conversation presents unique challenges toviral marketing.MBA Dissertation Page 8
  10. 10. From an organisation’s point of view, the key challenge is to assess whether it has thebandwidth to deal with a sudden rush of people wanting to buy its products i.e. can it fulfilevery request? Can it provide a positive customer experience to all its customers? It alsoneeds to ensure that all its ducks are in a row within the organisation to deal with thesudden influx. For example, there is no point marketing department using viral marketing ifthe IT department cannot deal with a sudden rise in number of downloads.From the marketers point of view, the key challenges are - How do you find who to targetamong the vast number of people interacting online, especially the ones who would bothlike your product and influence significant number of others to buy them? What do you doto grab their attention and engage with them? How do you correctly assess people’semotions about the products and services from the text they use online? How do youmeasure whether marketing campaign is working and adding to the bottom line? Andfinally, how do you make it sustainable?1.3 Viral marketing of digital products using social mediaIn order to help improve the overall understanding of viral marketing of digital productsusing social media, this paper will attempt to answer the following research question:  How is viral marketing of digital products different from that of viral messages (e.g. YouTube videos)?  What are the steps an organisation needs to take while considering, designing and executing a viral marketing campaign using social media  Once a viral marketing campaign is successful, what should an organisation do to sustain the customer’s interest?MBA Dissertation Page 9
  11. 11. 2. Literature Review2.1 What is Social Media?Social Media is the commonly known term for the Web2.0 technologies that enable theInternet users to generate and exchange content (Kaplan & Haenlein 2010) through desktopand mobile devices.With the increase in consumption of the mass media and internet, the decline of communityactivity has been one of the dominant social trends of recent decades across the world’sadvanced economies (Putnam 2000). American social scientist Robert Putnam wrote aboutthis trend, but also saw the potential of revival of these communities through internet(Putnam 2000). The Cluetrain Manifesto (Levine 2009), the 1999 internet marketing bookalso made a similar point in that it claimed people were drawn to the internet because of“the promise of voice and thus of authentic self (Levine 2009).” Social media’s popularity(Mashable 2011) over the last few years seems to provide confirmation to this as peoplecontinue to reach out to connect to other human beings and in the process accept thetechnological advancements that are thrown at them.The term Social Media was coined around 2004 with the launch of social networkingwebsites like MySpace (2003) and Facebook (2004); however the concept of socialnetworking can be traced back to almost 30 years ago when the first email was sentbetween two computers. Advancements in technologies like Internet, networkinfrastructure, Web 2.0, mobile devices etc. have since empowered every internet user tocreate their own content - be it video, blog, opinions etc. - and share between their onlinesocial networks. Social Media allows people to stay connected with many more people –friends, families, business associates etc. - even across multiple continents, than waspossible in the past.From a business point of view, social media is becoming an important platform tounderstand the market needs, study competition, and leverage the platforms to launch andmarket products and services and to maintain customer relationships. Marketers areMBA Dissertation Page 10
  12. 12. actively listening into the conversation on the social networks and analysing the impact oftheir brands. In December 2010, the editorial in the Harvard Business Review suggested: “Companies have traditionally spent up to 90% of their marketing budget on advertising and retail promotions. Yet the biggest influence in purchasing decision is often other people’s recommendations”According to Brian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy, “Social Media are where the nationalconversation is taking place today and either you are part of that conversation or you arenot” (Dunn 2010).Social Media Marketing is set to become an integral part of every company’s integratedmarketing mix in the coming months and years.2.2 Social media classificationIn order to find the right customers for targeting a marketing campaign - for a company,product, or brand - or to look for customers, especially the opinion leaders in socialnetworks talking about specific brand, marketers need to understand which social mediaplatforms to focus on. According to Kaplan et al (Kaplan & Haenlein 2010), there are sixdifferent types of Social Media: collaborative projects, blogs and microblogs, contentcommunities, social networking sites, virtual game worlds, and virtual communities.Further to this, Bernoff (Bernoff 2010) classify the types of social media users as – creators,critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives. It is important for marketers tounderstand that social network users quite often use multiple platforms whilecommunicating. For example, a user might post a video on YouTube and share its links andopinions through Twitter, Facebook etc.These classifications are important for marketers in that they not only need to target thesocial networks or the social media users that are relevant to their business, but also choosethe right management and monitoring tools that link to specific social network datasets.However, marketers need to be wary of the fact that social media is evolving rapidly andMBA Dissertation Page 11
  13. 13. new types of networks are quite likely to emerge in the future and they need to keepthemselves abreast on this area.Failure to recognise the relevant networks or the type of users on social networks could endup in marketers spending a lot or time of effort with very little in the way of the results. Thisis quite a common practice as marketers that do not know understand social media tend toshoot in the dark and very often fail to get the desired result for themselves and theirorganisations.2.3 What does Social Media means for marketers?Gerzema and Lebar (Gerzema & Edward 2008) argue in their book The Brand Bubble thatsince consumers trust each other more than they trust marketing information, social mediahas altered the trust equation for brands by allowing the customers to create and exchangetheir own contents. This means the customers can freely exchange positive and negativeperceptions about a brand in a connected world where these perceptions can spread like awild fire. For example, Groupon’s 2011 Superbowl advertisement was met by huge backlashon Twitter, so much so that the CEO of Groupon had to explain their reasoning behindchoosing those specific advertisements on the company blog (Andrew 2011).The technological advancements and increased connectivity online and offline have alsoallowed an unprecedented number of new brands to be introduced in recent years globally(Gerzema & Lebar 2009). Gerzema et al (Gerzema & Lebar 2009) discovered that consumerattitudes towards all sizes and segments of brands were in serious decline. They observedsignificant drops in key measures of brand value - ‘top of mind’ awareness, trust, regard andadmiration – aka the Brand Equity. The three major problems with the brands, they argue,are: 1. Excess capacity 2. Lack of creativity 3. Loss of trustMBA Dissertation Page 12
  14. 14. The advent of Social Media has made a marketers life a lot more challenging. It can beargued that it has become much harder to capture and sustain consumers’ attention andinterest in specific brands. In an attempt to address this issue, Gerzema et al (Gerzema &Lebar 2009) propose a new quality to the brand, called ‘energised differentiation’ I.e. Brandsthat reflect brand’s energy - communicate excitement, dynamism and creativity.Social media does provide an opportunity to connect with the consumers and understandtheir specific needs. Social media marketing provides unique opportunity to the marketersto create ‘energised differentiation’ that Gerzema et al (Gerzema & Lebar 2009) talk about.In order to do this, marketers needs to incorporate social media in the overall marketingstrategy of the company.2.4 What is Viral Marketing?Viral Marketing is the intentional influencing of consumer-to-consumer communication byprofessional marketing techniques (Kozinets et al. 2010). It is also otherwise known as word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM), buzz marketing and guerrilla marketing. Wilson (Wilson2005) describes viral marketing as: “Any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence”.People like to share their experiences with one another – the restaurants where they hadlunch, the movie they saw – and when the experiences are favourable, therecommendations can snowball, resulting in runaway success (Dye 2000). In her paper,Larsen (Larson 2009) argues that viral marketing through social media is the new format ofthe traditional word-of-mouth marketing, only exponentially faster. It enables the word-of-mouth to spread at the speed of thought (Ferguson 2008). In that sense, it can also betranslated as ‘networked enhanced WOM’ (Datta, Chowdhury & Chakraborty 2005).MBA Dissertation Page 13
  15. 15. One of the earliest examples of online viral marketing campaigns was created by MicrosoftHotmail (squidoo n.d.) - by including a simple hyperlink “Get your free Hotmail account” atthe bottom of every email sent out by existing users. It allowed a simple way for the users toaction and create their own Hotmail account. Hotmail increased its customer base to over12 million in just 18 months a result. Radder (Radder 2002) argues that the new andimproved technology has provided the customer an opportunity to demand and experiencefor a personal, interactive and relational experience.VM in social networks started with videos being posted on YouTube. For example, thechicken viral video by Burger King in 2004 received over 20m hits (Clifford-Marsh 2009) .However, these days VM campaigns are more integrated campaigns that are tied to othermore traditional forms of media. For example, the campaign for the movie The Dark Knightincorporated billboards, commercials, social networks, fake websites, email blasts, onlinepuzzles etc. The movie grossed over $1bn worldwide (Readon 2009) .It seems to be the case that the presence of millions of consumers on social networks, whoalso share their experiences and views on brands they like or dislike, presents a uniqueopportunity to the marketers – to not only understand the customers perspective of theirbrands, but also to influence their perceptions quite rapidly using viral marketing concepts.2.5 Advantages / Disadvantages of VM.When looking to buy products/services almost 76% people rely on other people’s opinionsfor product recommendations, versus 15% on advertising (Qualman 2009). Yang et al (Yang& Allenby 2003) showed that the geographically defined network of consumers is moreuseful than the demographic network for explaining consumer behaviour in purchasingJapanese cars. Hill et al (Hill, Provost & Volinsky 2006) found that adding networkinformation, specifically whether a potential customer was already talking to an existingcustomer, was predictive of the chances of adoption of a new phone service option. For thecustomers linked to a prior customer, the adoption rate was 3–5 times greater than thebaseline. These recommendations come from people who are opinions leaders or someoneMBA Dissertation Page 14
  16. 16. who has influence within a community. In order to capture the attention of theseinfluencers, marketers have to use targeted marketing campaigns.VM campaign is a lower-cost option when compared to mass media marketing. It also allowsthe marketers to target specific customers and has a high and rapid response rate. Itappears to be quite a straight forward option for the organisations and marketers to adoptviral marketing strategies; however, the outcome of VM is hard to predict (Watts, Peretti &Frumin 2007). Mass marketing, on the other hand, has a far wider reach and marketers canget predictable returns from such campaigns. Watts et al (Watts, Peretti & Frumin 2007)argue that combining viral marketing with mass marketing, in what they call Big SeedMarketing, would allow marketers to get a more predictable return.Marketers should also carefully consider the fact that viral marketing campaigns becomeunmanageable once they gain a certain momentum. This can be a major problem formarketers, especially if the campaign doesn’t have the desired outcome.In a study in 2001, Bowman et al (Bowman & Narayandas 2001) found that self-reportedloyal customers were more likely to talk to others about the products when they weredissatisfied, but, interestingly, they were not more likely to talk to others when they weresatisfied. To avoid this, marketers need to carefully monitor the early stages of a VMcampaign when they may have some control and there is an opportunity to take correctivemeasures.The low cost of social media marketing and the potential to reach and influence millions ofpeople through personal recommendation seems to be a very lucrative option formarketers. However, if not managed properly, such campaigns also have the potential toget out of hand very quickly and become unmanageable. Marketers need to keep this mindand take a balanced approach.2.6 Identifying the target audience for a viral marketing campaign.MBA Dissertation Page 15
  17. 17. As described previously, internet users engage in social media on a variety of platforms.Marketing messages and meaning on these platforms are not unidirectional, but rather areexchanged among members of these social media networks.In a study, Kozinets (Kozinets et al. 2010) found that motivations to participate are complexand culturally embedded, shaped by communal interests and communicative orientationsand charged with moral hazard. The first challenge for the marketers is to identify thenetworks that are relevant to their brand or campaign.The social network models have traditionally suffered from the lack of data to analyse thepredictive nature of the network. However, Domingos (Domingos 2005) argues that massiveamount of data is now available on very large social networks, allowing the marketers tobuild models of the individuals involved in the social media. Data on all the nodes in thesocial networks now allows for an unprecedented level of analysis, understanding,predictions and their productive use in decision-making. The analysis allows for new modelsto be created that could be used to create VM plans that maximise positive WoM amongcustomers.Similar to any social network in the physical world, influential users play a crucial role incustomers’ buying decisions in online social networks. Armano (Armano 2010), in his blogwrote that sharing useful information that might help someone within your network scoresyou points and builds equity. Domingos (Domingos 2005) defines network value of thecustomer as, “the expected increase in sales to others that result from marketing to thatcustomer”. The second challenge for the marketers is to identify the customers with highnetwork value. While identifying the target audience, the key question they should askthemselves is, “If we market to this particular set of customers, what is the expected profitfrom the whole network, after the influence of those customers has propagatedthroughout” (Domingos 2005).Marketers should be aware that it is not just about numbers. The context in which thesenumbers are used is a lot more crucial. Online users listen to other users for variety ofreasons and do not necessarily get influenced by everything they say. For example,MBA Dissertation Page 16
  18. 18. celebrities usually have most number of followers on social networks, but they do notnecessarily influence their followers’ buying decisions.The amount of data now available on the internet where users freely share ideas aboutbrands and the reasons behind their choices they make as consumers allows the researchersto perform insightful analysis. Kozinets (Kozinets 1998) coined the term Netnography - abranch of Ethnography that analyses the free behaviour of individuals on internet usingmarketing research techniques to provide useful insights. In order to identify which specificinfluencers to use as seeds, marketers need to use these research techniques across thetargeted social networks, in addition to the short listed high network value customers.The literature seems to fall short in that there doesn’t seem to be the recognition thatconsumers use a variety of languages, slangs, abbreviations etc. when expressing theiropinions about brands on their social networks. The idea of using these as insights is all welland good, but there aren’t systems out there yet that are capable of accurately judging themood of the consumer, especially when they deviate from the standard language rules.Marketers need to be very careful when using such automated tools as the results can bequite deceptive.2.7 Creating and executing a VM campaign - main characteristics.The researchers view on whether a viral marketing campaign can be orchestrated seems tobe divided. Watts (Watts, Peretti & Frumin 2007) argue that it is very hard – if notimpossible to predict the success of a viral marketing campaign.Many other researchers have also written about various aspects of creating a VM campaign.Barnes et al (Barnes & Mattson 2008) in a longitudinal study of Inc. 500, found a significantgrowth in the use of social media and viral marketing technologies. Setty (Setty 2009), awell-known entrepreneur and blogger in the Silicon Valley, analysed nine viral videos in hisblog to define seven key characteristics that he believes should be included in a viralMBA Dissertation Page 17
  19. 19. message. Wilson (Wilson 2005) further defines six elements of an effective viral marketingstrategy. Dye (Dye 2000) defined the assessment criteria for the buzz-worthiness ofproducts. The book, The Dragonfly Effect (Aaker & Smith 2010) propose a four wingedframework (see Appendix F, point 1) for social media marketers to get amplification orinfectious action from the customers engaged in social networks.Dye (Dye 2000) proposed a list of powerful tactics (see Appendix F, point 2) for creating aviral marketing campaign. Balter (Balter 2005) describes creating a Seeding campaign as onein which the product is placed among influential consumers so that they can communicatefavourably about it to other consumers. However, managing favourable outcomes in socialmedia can be tricky as influencers can write positive or negative comments about theproduct, so identifying influencers and influencing them should be done very carefully,ideally based on relevance of the content, influence (traffic) and screened - possible on aone-to-one basis - before they are chosen to be seeded.Kozinets et al (Kozinets et al. 2010) defines four important factors (see Appendix F, point 3)that influence WOM communication. Highlighting the importance of type of narrative(Evaluation, Explanation, Embracing and Endorsement) in the WOM communication,Kozinets et al (Kozinets et al. 2010) argue that the type of WOMM promotion, including theproduct type, must be considered (see Appendix F, point 4). They further argues thatmarketers need to carefully understand the on-going character narrative, communicationforum and the communal norms in the social network(s) where they plan to execute a VMcampaign. They can achieve this by:  Identifying and elaborating on the context, including the product being marketed and the target market.  Measuring and classifying different types of character narratives and communication forums.  Understanding and respecting communal norms (explore and classify the norms and relate to particular outcomes such as reciprocity, trust and role of authority).  Considering the implications associated with commercial-communal tensions.MBA Dissertation Page 18
  20. 20. Larson (Larson 2009) make an interesting point in that it is essential to ensure that there areother components that support viral marketing campaign and that there is an appeal to thecustomer’s emotions. Larson (Larson 2009) also emphasises that the message should be in aformat that is easy to share and that the message arouse a response in the consumer strongenough to result in the forwarding, or sharing, of that message with their social network(How to launch a low-cost viral marketing effort 2008).Linking viral marketing campaigns to the company strategy and capabilities, Larson (Larson2009) also points out that the companies need to be prepared both internally and externallyin order to positively benefit from consumer interaction. Larson (Larson 2009) also outlinesone of the main challenge is for the marketers to monitor, manage and influence the two-way communication that results from the application of social media as once the messagereaches the point where it becomes viral, not only the spread cannot be controlled, but theentire brand message and its interpretation is no longer in the hands of the company.2.8 Measuring effectiveness of a VM CampaignEmerging social network analysis and visualisation techniques offer the marketers to delvedeeper into consumer minds (Whitney 2010) – to identify connectors, influencers,implementers and other types of members in the group. Whitney (Whitney 2010) describesthat social network visualisations can help identify important connecting points such as pre-established relationships, shared expertise, and who may have information that isn’tobvious from their current roles. EventGraphs (Hansen, Smith & Shneiderman 2010) can beused to illustrate the structure of connections and communications among peoplediscussing an event. These EventGraphs can help identify sub-groups within largerconversations, as well as individuals with unique social signatures. Jesse Thomas and BrianSolis (Solis & Thomas 2011), the social media gurus, recently developed an inforgraphic ofthe Twitterverse (See Appendix E) depicting important tools to help marketers moreeffectively navigate, engage, analyse and measure participation on Twitter.MBA Dissertation Page 19
  21. 21. Many other tools are now emerging that allow marketers to analyse multiple social medianetworks (Some examples are PeerIndex.net and PeopleBrowsr.com), but these tools arestill very basic in terms of providing consolidated analytics to the marketers.The other challenge for marketers is the Sentiment Analysis. Current systems are not goodenough to accurately measures emotions. Companies that currently claim to do this are onlytouching the surface as they match words but not relate whether they are meaningful ornot. The variations in the language used i.e. abbreviations, slang, interpretations of words,local dialects etc. makes it even more difficult to develop systems that can accuratelymeasure sentiments with respect to brands in online conversations. Marketers still have todepend on specialised tools to analyse individual social networks and then perform amanually qualitative analysis to make sense of the cross network data and the use ofsentiments in the online conversation.2.9 How to make a Viral Marketing campaign sustainable?There is very little written on whether a VM campaign can be made sustainable. Generallyspeaking, viral messages are associated with large spikes where the message takes a certainamount of time to reach the Tipping Point (Gladwell 2000) and then spreads uncontrollablyand then dies down once the message loses its uniqueness. However, marketers should takea different approach when it comes to sustainability in product/services related VMcampaigns – one of sustaining the interest of the customers once they have experienced theproduct or service on offer. Targeted VM campaigns differ from general viral messages inthat they are designed for the customer to give a taste of the product or service on offer.Once the marketers have the customers’ attention, they should use the standard productmanagement and marketing principles to help sustain customer interest – be it engagingwith customers, listening to their feedback and using it to drive improvements, managingtheir expectations, developing brand loyalty and delighting them when it comes to providingcustomer service.2.10 SummaryMBA Dissertation Page 20
  22. 22. There seems to be a perception that Social Media is a quick and low cost solution to marketproducts to a targeted audience. Marketers talk about developing viral marketingcampaigns using social media as the key to reach out to a large consumer base in a veryshort time span. Researchers have talked about the characteristics of a viral message, itsadvantages and disadvantages, however, there seems to a gap between the actual study ofviral messages and how they are, or can be, utilised by the organisations to market theirproducts. This paper will aim to fill this gap by answering these key research questions:  Is viral marketing of digital products different from viral messages (e.g. YouTube videos)?  What are the steps an organisation needs to take while considering, designing and executing a viral marketing campaign using social media?  Once a viral marketing campaign is successful, what should an organisation do to sustain the customer’s interest?MBA Dissertation Page 21
  23. 23. 3. MethodologyThis chapter provides an outline of the research methodology used to answer the researchquestions - the research approach, a description of primary data collection process for theinterviews, secondary research, data analysis techniques used and limitations of theadopted research method.3.1 Research approachThe research approach influences design and provides an opportunity to consider benefitsand limitations of various approaches available to the researcher (Crewell 2003). Two typesof approaches are available – deductive and inductive. Deductive approach tests theories,while an inductive approach forms theories (Marcoulides 1998). This report uses inductiveresearch approach as it aims to formulate hypothesis and develop general theory aroundhow organisations could go about marketing digital products, especially viral marketing,using social media.There are two methods available for data analysis – Qualitative and Quantitative.Qualitative research is “a research strategy that usually emphasises words rather thanquantification in the collection and analysis of data” (Bryman & Bell 2007), whilequantitative research is based on data analysis to generate reliability. Qualitative researchbetter reflects “the quality of the lived experience of individuals, which cannot be reducedto numerical values using statistical analysis” (Hewitt-Taylor 2001). Social media is adynamic field which is continuously changing. This means that although quantitative analysiswould provide data, designing an appropriate survey to get qualified opinions andunderstand the deeper issues in this area was quite challenging (Amaratunga et al. 2002).This report uses the qualitative method to explore the research questions as it allowsresearchers to conduct in-depth explorations of a particular phenomenon (Crewell 2003).MBA Dissertation Page 22
  24. 24. This choice is further justified as the research questions focus on opinions, feelings andexperiences, thus providing subjective data.3.2 Data collection methodsIn-depth interviews act as the primary source of the research and syndicate services(Twitter, blogs, Facebook groups etc.) as the secondary sources.Qualitative analysis allows for a better understanding and interpretation of the experiencesof their subjects (Tvede & Ohnemus 2001). This is important for this research as it looks at awide variety of experiences, understanding of the subject and interpretation of the datagathered. In order to achieve this, in-depth personal interviews with market participantswere conducted at prearranged locations. The discussion in the interviews was structuredaround the core research questions, but no set questionnaire was developed. Theinterviews themselves were semi-structured in that even though the questions were basedon research questions, they were kept open ended and the direction of the discussions wasbased on the interviewees experience and area of expertise.The reasons for selecting semi-structured interviews as the preferred approach are:  They involve a series of open-ended questions allowing the discussion on research topics.  They allow the interviewer to encourage the interviewee to consider a question further.  They provide a high level of response.Necessary precautions were taken to ensure that there were no faults in recording theinterviews. Interviews were recorded on an audio recording device and then carefullytranscribed to avoid any such issues.The questions in the interviews were sequenced in the following conceptual order:MBA Dissertation Page 23
  25. 25.  Social media strategy and capability assessment  Marketing strategy, especially the importance of an integrated approach  Design attributes for Product / Service for them to be considered for Viral Marketing  Designing a viral marketing message for product/services  Importance of influencers  Executing, managing and monitoring a viral marketing campaign, and the importance of sentiment analysis  Exploring whether a viral marketing campaign can be made sustainableCandidates for the interview were selected on the basis of their experience in social mediamarketing and their relevance in the managing overall strategy and executing specific partsof the SMM strategy.Due to geographical constraints and professional commitments, one of the interviews - withthe Online Community Manager of KIK Interactive Inc. - had to be done as emailconversations. It would have been better to conduct this interview as a telephoneconversation but it wasn’t feasible because of the time differences and other workcommitments on their part. All interviews were conducted in March 2011.3.3 Interview subjects  Colin Gilchrist – SocialTailor.com: Colin is a social media strategist, who helps organisations assess their overall marketing strategy and help them integrate social media marketing as part of this strategy  Andrew Burnett - UrbanNiche: Andrew helps companies design and execute social media marketing campaigns. Andrews company specialises in pushing the marketing message with a view to reach a point where the message could go viral.MBA Dissertation Page 24
  26. 26.  Jenny Herbison and Rachel Armitage - Skyscanner: Skyscanner is an online flight search company that has recently launched a very successful mobile phone application. Rachel and Jenny, together, are responsible for the overall marketing strategy for all geographical markets Skyscanner operates in.  Tera Dargavel – KIK Interactive, Inc.: KIK Interactive, Inc. provides a mobile application that allows cross platform real time texts on mobile devices. KIK was downloaded on 1 million devices within first 15 days of its launch. Tera works as the Online Community Manager at KIK.3.4 Secondary sourcesThe rapid changes in the field of social media mean that there is a scarcity of academicliterature in this area. Hence, a lot of research was focused on works by opinion leaders andpractitioners in the field of social media marketing. In order to get an appropriate range ofsecondary resources, wide reading was done including these sources:  Analysts reports  Industry and academic journals  Blogs  Twitter  Facebook groups  White papersTwitter turned out to be one of the most useful resources for secondary research as itseems to have become a platform where all the latest ideas are shared in real time, basedon the experiences of the companies and the thought leaders involved in this area.MBA Dissertation Page 25
  27. 27. 3.5 Data analysisThe data processing in this report is based on the technique described by Kumar et al(Kumar, Tan & Steinbach 2005). Once the interviews had been conducted and thetranscripts had been prepared, the usable material, by themes, was drawn out from thetranscripts through a process called Coding. The coded research material was copied andpasted into separate Microsoft Word files, one for each theme. These files provided an easylook through while writing the Empirical Materials chapter. The qualitative data was thenanalysed using the interpretive approach (Miles & Huberman 1994).The material collected through qualitative methods is invariably unstructured and unwieldy(Bryman & Bell 2007). It is the rough material collected from the field, if the form ofvideotapes, conversations etc., that form the basis of analysis (Bogdan & Biklen 1992). Dueto its complicated nature, there is no standardised approach to the analysis of thequalitative data (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill 1998).The raw material resulting from the data gathering process in qualitative research is usuallyin the form of words, and there are different strategies to deal with words. Miles et al (Miles& Huberman 1994) outlined three approaches for analysing qualitative data – interpretive,collaborative social research, and social anthropology. Creswell (Crewell 2003) furtheridentified five approaches – case study, biography, phenomenology, grounded theory, andethnography.This report uses the interpretive approach to analyse the data as it is used to present aholistic view of data rather than a condensed view. The results of this analysis are discussedin the Analysis chapter.3.6 Research limitationsThe exploratory nature of the research and the majority of experienced practitioners livingin distant locations - most successful social media marketing firms are either based inexpertise were limited. However, much consideration was given in selecting the suitableMBA Dissertation Page 26
  28. 28. interviewees mainly via professional recommendations in the social media industry and areview of their work. Even though care was taken while identifying the right interviewees,the number of interviews meant that the findings of the research are not tested to bestatistically significant. Further to this, mitigating any kind of bias that interviewees mighthave had, as argued by Robson (Robson 1993), is limited by my understating of the subjectarea and interpretation.3.7 Ethical considerationsThe interviewees have been informed of the academic purpose of this study. They havegranted permission for using their details in the report. The research is based on analysingprimary and secondary data using frameworks already developed by researchers. A softcopy of the completed report will be made available to the interviewees. This research alsohas approval from University of Edinburgh and gives rise to no ethical issues.MBA Dissertation Page 27
  29. 29. 4. Empirical MaterialIn literature review section, we presented the theory behind various aspects of viralmarketing and how businesses should go about creating a strategy, a plan, executing theplan and monitoring the campaigns. In this section, we will present the research data fromthe interviews conducted with industry specialists and practitioners.4.1 Importance of strategyThe interviewees were asked about the importance of an overall marketing strategy forcompanies while considering social media marketing or viral marketing as a tool to markettheir products and services.Gilchrist (Gilchrist 2011) of SocialTailor.com emphasised on the importance of employeebuy in and the need to have a crisis management strategy for the companies - before evenconsidering social media strategies – to make sure they are protected if things go wrong. One of the first things that I look at is when they are developing their strategy, they need to analyse and assess the employees throughout the business. One of the other things for big corporations is that they need to know that there brand is protected, so what we need to put in place is crisis management - the bottom line is that you are listing all the potential things that could go wrong and are likely to go wrong.Viral marketing strategy should be integrated in overall marketing strategy and the contentstrategy, and that the organisations should clearly define goals, responsibilities and set out acommunication strategy (Gilchrist 2011). In terms of the strategy, you need to look at content strategy, in fact there are lots of different elements you need to look at, but you needMBA Dissertation Page 28
  30. 30. to figure out who is doing what? What is that you want to achieve – is it just more sales or is brand awareness, who is going to deliver it, etc.?Herbison et al (Herbison & Armitage 2011) of Skyscanner also alluded to the fact that thesocial media marketing needs to be integrated with the overall marketing strategy, and it isimportant that same people manage all the channels in a particular market. Managing these contacts throughout the organisation is key whether it’s through SEO, through PR or anything else. When do an app, we make sure there is an integrated view of all the contacts. The same people managing it is important as well. We have country specialists that look after PR, SEO and all promotions ensuring that they can see the opportunities across channels.Herbison et al (Herbison & Armitage 2011) also described how they used an integratedapproach while launching their mobile phone application: For each market we have main networks and local networks that are tried and tested, but for the mobile app we used different people as it’s the different audience and you cannot go with the same people. It’s a different product, so we have to treat it differently. Everyone in the company was very proactive in pitching the mobile app. It wasn’t just the specific people, but everyone in the company.Herbison et al (Herbison & Armitage 2011) described the inclusion of operationsdepartment to highlight importance of an overall business strategy, and also to emphasisethe importance of capacity/capability management while executing viral marketingcampaigns: When we were launching the app, a lot of planning went into that as to what was the right time to launch it and making sure we had additional capacityMBA Dissertation Page 29
  31. 31. That’s managed by our operations department. They have contingency of managing if we suddenly have a surge in traffic. We have it all planned out and we have capacity to manage say 30% more traffic to deal sudden surge If we have knowledge beforehand and expecting a spike we can warn operations to expect a spike.Burnett (Burnett 2011) of Urban Niche emphasised this point and argued that the messagesare spread through “every network imaginable”. Dargavel (Dargavel 2011) of KIK Interactive,Inc. indirectly made a similar point: Viral marketing is a large effort too - the medium must be decided on, the marketing story and how it is going to be presented and then the distribution efforts. The story and messaging has to make sense and align with the brand - because people nowadays are much more savvy about marketing and can see right through blatant, selfish efforts to get as many eyes on the company name and message as possible.4.2 Important factors for viral messagesInterviewees were asked to describe factors that would help create a viral message for theproduct or service.Burnett (Burnett 2011) argued that the emotional trigger is crucial for anything to go viral.He also argues that the product or service being marketed has to be exceptionally good – sogood that people would not be afraid to put their name behind it while promoting it.MBA Dissertation Page 30
  32. 32. You need an emotional trigger for anything to go viral. Most people think of viral as being funny, but it doesn’t need to be funny at all. It could be something that’s informative, or something that’s tragic. It’s all endorsement and if I am going to endorse something in my name, it needs to be bloody good – it cannot be OK or mediocre. If you want a spike at the launch, then you really need to find individuals with clout (with a ‘c’), even involve them in the process of creating it. Understand the socials sharing mechanics of what we are creating. Understand the viral mechanisms that we can include within the product/services that we are creating.Dargavel (Dargavel 2011) made a similar point with respect to an emotional trigger. : Often, the medium is a video and the content involves something that makes people feel sympathy (or empathy), or is something humorous, or is something extraordinary to witness.Burnett (Burnett 2011) also emphasised the importance of making the product socialfriendly by using Viber – a mobile phone application – as an example: The guys at Viber have been really clever in the way they have designed the app. You can automatically access your phone book through Viber and the app looks through that to see who else is using Viber. It just becomes really easy for users to spread the word. It’s cheap, its user friendly and it makes it really easy for me to contact others to ask them to use it as well.Burnett (Burnett 2011) further highlighted that making the products available for free (andgenerating revenue by displaying advertisements) further makes the customers buyingdecision really easy:MBA Dissertation Page 31
  33. 33. To an extent it’s the freemium model. Do I want my choice of free music anytime of the day and night? Yes, of course I do.Dargavel (Dargavel 2011) also agreed with the ease of availability and sharing: Making it very easy to share the content with friends (i.e., do not put it behind a pay wall! It will never go viral)Gilchrist (Gilchrist 2011) believed in experimenting with different concepts for a brand andtesting them in the market to see what people might like and on which platform: Having chatted to a CEO of a media company, what he does is that he creates lots and lots of small case studies with the clients brand to see what works and on what platform, and if one particular thing works then he would pour lots of money into it to do it properly.Herbison et al (Herbison & Armitage 2011) also argue about the importance of having agood product that people like and emphasised on really understanding the market, thechannels that work best in each market and finding the right influencers in each of thosemarkets and channels within each market. I think as much as anything, your product has to be strong and when you give a good product to these people, they will give you a good review and that’s key. We have done a number of different things in different markets. Within each of our managed markets we have identified places where we need to be to get our app reviewed.4.3 Importance of influencersMBA Dissertation Page 32
  34. 34. On the question of the importance of influencers in spreading the message about theproduct, all interviewees were unanimous in the importance of finding the rightinfluencers in making a viral marketing campaign a success.Herbison et al (Herbison & Armitage 2011) describe how they could see the spikes indownloads when the applications were reviewed and given a good rating. They alsocompared downloads to the markets where they were delayed in getting reviews and saw apositive correlation: The best example of doing that was that on the review sites, we were very lucky that we had good contacts of journalists and bloggers and we just sent them the information, they reviewed the app for us and then there are people who trust these reviews and see them as authorities for that, and that’s when you can see the downloads spikes when they have reviewed the app and given it five stars. In a couple of our markets, we were a bit delayed compared to others in terms of doing that, but you can quite accurately see the point at which we exerted those efforts versus the downloads.Herbison et al (Herbison & Armitage 2011) reiterated the importance of an integratedapproach in that different approaches worked in different markets, and the channel wherethe influencers came from differed between markets. It’s different for different markets. We make best use of tools where they make sense and we certainly do manage SEO’s and making sure who is linking to us and how those links are being passed on. There are a couple of tools that we started using that are particularly helpful for tracking relationships.Gilchrist (Gilchrist 2011) also agreed with the idea that influencers can be found on variousnetworks or channels, and highlighted the importance of doing research to find out theright people in the particular sector where product is going to be launched.MBA Dissertation Page 33
  35. 35. There are lots and lots of different ways. For example, AllTop.com which is an aggregate news websites, advanced blog search through blogsearch.google.com. Finding blogs that are opinionated but will also talk about your product is important. They cannot always be bought, it depends on the ethics on them, but if they can be bought it’s probably not good for you the companies.Burnett (Burnett 2011) agreed with the idea of influencers and their importance, butoffered his specific insight into who the real influencers are i.e. it’s not just a matter of howmany people follow you, but the compound effect of a network of people who will endorseyour message because they trust your judgment, and are influential enough to further pushthe message in their network – to the point that the message reaches a critical mass whereit can become truly viral, where no further pushing is required. There are definitely people who influence things, but it still have to have genuine content on it. In the social web, the main currency is endorsement. There are people who you trust, so you endorse their things and then there is a reciprocal nature to it that people who trust you will endorse your things, but it has to be a two way exchange. It then comes back to the fact that if something is genuinely worth talking about, it reaches a certain critical mass and then it takes off by itself – and that’s what an actual viral is. It’s a relatively tight knit community – there are probably a couple of hundred people that are really any good, maybe 500 but no more than that – and this is global. These are your influencers / endorsers who are not celebrities. So, if Stephen Fry retweets you, of course it is going to big because he is got millions of followers on Twitter, but the people who have got 2000 followers can pull a lot of right strings inMBA Dissertation Page 34
  36. 36. the background. Of those people there are around 500 max. Basically, you all work together, not in a financial sense at all, but there are favours you trade.Burnett (Burnett 2011) also explained that submission of product to review websites orblogs works as well: These blogs will create content about your product. These blogs then reach out to power users on various networks because they want readership and they say, “Have you seen this story?” And then the whole thing starts getting attention. All the links from the blogs get shared on these networks and you also get secondary benefits of SEO from it. And people then talking about it gets converted into downloads.When asked about how to know when something has reached this critical mass, Burnett’s(Burnett 2011) view was that it is usually very intuitive. Dargavel (Dargavel 2011) alsohighlighted the importance of online influential space like blogs and review websites: In the app space you may really hope that your news (press releases, blog posts) gets picked up by Hacker News because its one of the most widely read news sources for Silicon Valley and the tech industry. You may try to distribute your content to journalists at various publications (Huffington Post, Tech Crunch, etc.) or you may just submit it to Reddit or other link collecting sites like that. Again, there is no tried and true method to viral marketing but there are best practices.4.4 Executing a campaignMBA Dissertation Page 35
  37. 37. Once a marketing campaign is launched, marketers need to be able to monitor itsprogress, engage with the customers, manage their feedback and measure the success ofthe campaign. Interviewees were asked how they managed this.All interviewees depended on a variety of tools to carry out the monitoring tasks.Burnett (Burnett 2011) used Raven (to manage SEO at the domain level), Trak.ly (to trackindividual URL), PostRank (for new launches) and Google Analytics (for general trafficinformation)Gilchrist (Gilchrist 2011) preferred using a company called Forth Matrix as they combine allthe information together, instead of using separate tools.Dargavel (Dargavel 2011) highlighted that there are free tools on the web that can be usedto, “listen to the whole of the web or parts of it”.Herbison et al (Herbison & Armitage 2011) described that their company uses a variety oftools: For SEO we are currently using a mixture of Raven, Linkdex, SEOMoz. We also use Basecamp for project planning and tracking. In terms of analytics we are big fans of Google Analytics and the various other tools Google provides (Webmaster, Adplanner etc.) and usually find that their free offering fulfills our needs. That said, for the mobile app, we use Flurry which specifically tracks mobile sessionsCustomer engagement among the interviewees happen through responding to customerqueries through emails, responding to comments on blogs, or on Twitter. They agreed thatspecific processes and communication strategies should be developed in the organisationsto manage customer feedback. Only one out of four interviewees talked about proactivelymonitoring the online space for sentiment analysis or netnography concepts in order tofigure what people are talking about their brands in the social web. Herbison et al(Herbison & Armitage 2011) describe the situation at Skyscanner as:MBA Dissertation Page 36
  38. 38. We have people who email us and every email gets a response, so we do track our reputation online, but we are taking that one step forward looking at emotions online. We are not there yet.Herbison (Herbison & Armitage 2011) further pointed out the importance of doing thesentiment analysis correctly and allocating enough resource to it: In my previous experience I worked with clients managing their reputation and looking at negative emotions, but it’s all very well knowing them but unless you can action on it, it’s useless. We were giving all this information to our clients, but they couldn’t action any of it because they didn’t have the resource. There are very few organisations that have the time and resource to engage properly. Also, one thing you do not want to do is to engage incorrectly because you will end up doing more harm. If you are dipping in and out, it is unsatisfactory to the user baseDargavel (Dargavel 2011) also highlighted the importance of dedicatedresource for customer engagement: A brand, or even a company representative, is much more able to answer questions or concerns in blog comments or by responding to tweets. Negative conversations are usually mediated by explanation.4.5 Sustainability of a VM campaignInterviewees were asked if they thought a viral marketing campaign be made sustainableover a long periodThe interviewees thought that it was very hard, if not impossible, to do so. It was felt that apossible outcome was to increase the average traffic over a period of time following theMBA Dissertation Page 37
  39. 39. viral marketing campaign if the product and/or the viral message was very good. Burnett(Burnett 2011) pointed out that: Either you consistently create engaging content that’s going to get spike after spike after spike, or you should look at it in a way that when you create a spike you increase the average traffic towards the product/service or the website. So, the plateau after the spike should be higher than the one before if you have done it cleverly. If you have not done it cleverly the plateau will be the same and if you have done it stupidly the average will actually be lower.Gilchrist (Gilchrist 2011) was of the similar view: Once it has spiked it’s great, but then let’s have a steady growth, and then another peak and then another peak. Trying to sustain the spike is very very difficult. This is because what you are doing is you are shocking people to get them interested. To constantly shock people, the campaign has to be so entertaining that everyone is going to love it, but you will never be able to make everyone happy and sustain it. It’s very very unusual.Burnett (Burnett 2011) further stressed that designing the product with social sharingmechanics in mind and engaging influencers at any early stage of the product design willincrease the chances of a product going viral: Understand the socials sharing mechanics of what we are creating. Understand the viral mechanisms that we can include within the product/services that we are creating. You can also build in mechanisms to share things online within the product. It is important to note that the earlier you engage the influencers, the better. Once you have already done it, there isn’t much influencers can do to help design the product/service.MBA Dissertation Page 38
  40. 40. Dargavel (Dargavel 2011) thought it may be possible to sustain a viralcampaign, but warned about the fine balance between reiteration of a themeand an overkill: Take a look at Old Spice - I think theyre trying to make their viral marketing campaign a little more long lasting. So, when you have a good idea you can stick with it and reiterate - but there is a fine line between a theme and overkill.MBA Dissertation Page 39
  41. 41. 5. AnalysisMy interest in social media started as a quest for more information. The new applications onthe mobile devices (for example, Flipboard on iPad) have made it much easier to identify,target and receive information from the specific sources that are of interest to me. Twitterhas increasingly become an important online source for the latest information in almost anyarea –including but not limited to news, ideas, opinions and reflections.In November 2010, I came across a tweet about a product called KIK - a cross platforminstant messaging application. It caught my interest as I had seen Blackberry users ravingabout the Blackberry Messenger (BBM). A simple search for #KIK on Twitter revealed thatthousands of people were talking about this product, downloading it and giving positive ornegative feedback about it. Two weeks after launching, KIK was downloaded on more than 1million mobile devices. Achieving such a huge number of downloads in such a short span oftime caught my interest.A few questions sprung to mind straight away. How did they manage to do it? Was it justluck or a carefully carved strategy? Are the marketers aware of the ongoing conversation onthe social networks about their brand, and if so, how do they manage it? Then theconversation on Twitter slowed down considerably, and the question I asked myself waswhat could marketers do to sustain the consumer interest in their brand?In December 2010, I came across another app, Viber, a competitor to Skype, providing freecalls between iPhones over a 3G network. It was a similar story with Viber in that it achieved1 million download in just 5 days. KIK now didn’t seem like a one off app that got lucky.I started looking for already existing research on these topics. It was surprising when I foundthat most of the academic material was quite dated, more so because social media and itsusage is changing so rapidly at the moment that it is difficult for the academic world to catchup.I also realised that Twitter was one of the main sources for finding information. Mostopinions leaders, industry specialists and even industry and academic journals tweet aboutMBA Dissertation Page 40
  42. 42. their papers, blog entries, comments on other members’ articles and ideas. However,Twitter is like a stream of consciousness, with ideas and thoughts flowing vertically on a 19inch screen - just like credits flowing on the screen at the end of a movie, but only muchfaster. This stream of data is on a variety of subjects and comes from hundreds of peopleyou follow on Twitter. Once I managed to get a handle on the conversations that werespecific to social media marketing, I started reading blogs, industry and academic journalsand whitepapers to understand how companies go about using social media as an effectivemarketing tool.This gave me deep insights into: how organisations go about using social media, latestdevelopment and opinions from the thought leaders in social media, reviews and opinionson various strategies and tools used in social media marketing, and importance of sentimentanalysis, or Netnography (Kozinets 2010) of the consumer conversation about a certainbrand. This secondary research also allowed me to get an understanding of the key areassurrounding viral marketing of the products. It helped me develop a framework for theinterviews. Twitter also helped me identify some of the key social media influencers andconverse with them. For example, connection with the Online Community Manager of KIKwas established using Twitter, and after a few tweets back and forth she agreed toparticipate in my research.Below is an analysis of the primary and secondary research.5.1 Viral MarketingViral marketing literature seems to be divided into two types of viral campaigns: campaignsthat go viral just because they appeal to human emotions – the one’s that do not necessaryhave a viral marketing strategy behind them. For example, YouTube videos that catchpeople attention and go viral over a certain period. The second one is the strategic viralmarketing campaigns around a product or a service, a brand or even just a message. Thesecampaigns are well thought out and planned. More often than not, people seem to usethese interchangeably when talking about viral campaigns. In the interviews, the companiesMBA Dissertation Page 41
  43. 43. that didn’t have their own products seemed to have a broad focus on viral messages(Gilchrist 2011), while product companies were more focused on the properties that weremore suitable to making their own products go viral (Dargavel 2011) (Herbison & Armitage2011). Since the focus of this paper is on digital products, it mainly covers the marketingcampaigns that are carefully planned for digital products to viral. This means that theconclusion may differ from designing viral campaigns if the focus was mainly raising theawareness of the brand.5.2 StrategyBefore we look at the specifics of a viral marketing campaign, it is important to understandthe overall context in which a company would want to use viral marketing. The researchshows most companies have an overall marketing strategy, and if viral marketing is part ofthat strategy, then it needs to have defined goals, resource with assigned responsibilities,and a plan of action (Gilchrist 2011) (Dargavel 2011) (Herbison & Armitage 2011).There seem to be enough examples of viral marketing campaigns getting negative publicityfor the company – for example, Groupon’s superbowl advertisement or Threshers discountcoupons (Andrew 2011). The un-predictive and unmanageable nature of viral messages canbe dangerous for the companies. Watts et al (Watts, Peretti & Frumin 2007) talk aboutcombining viral marketing and mass media marketing, in what they call Big Seed Marketing,to achieve maximum reach and to counter the unpredictable nature of the viral marketingcampaigns. The research also highlights the importance of having a crisis strategy in casethings do go wrong.The companies need to understand the markets they operate in and the marketing channelsthat are most effective in each of these markets. A marketing strategy should then bedefined, as part of an overall business strategy, covering the marketing techniques for eachcombination of market and market channel (Herbison & Armitage 2011). Whether viralmarketing is part of this strategy or not should be decided on the merits of each channelwithin the market(s) the company operates in. For example, Twitter seems to provide anMBA Dissertation Page 42
  44. 44. easy platform for ideas to go viral, by using the hashtag facility. Every day, there aretrending topics that are referenced using these hashtags on Twitter. These trends are in away similar to viral messages in that they spread when users use those words in theirtweets. There has to be a trigger for the users to do that. In a way this is similar to theemotional triggers that were mentioned in the interviews. However, Twitter, as a marketingchannel, may only be relevant for certain markets and the marketers should be aware ofthat.5.3 CapabilitiesThe research shows that while defining the marketing strategy, the companies’ capabilitiesneeds to be assessed (Gilchrist 2011). One would expect this to be common sense, but itseems that it is often overlooked especially when it comes to social media marketing. Thereis growing literature that supports the need of an Online Community Manager in thecompanies to manage all aspects of social media. The interviewees in the primary researchwere unanimous in their opinion that companies need to assign specific people and haveclear responsibilities when it comes to social media marketing (Herbison & Armitage 2011)(Gilchrist 2011) (Dargavel 2011). These responsibilities can range from delivering marketingmessages, monitoring and managing the overall community and marketing campaigns,engaging with customers, and listening and responding to customer feedback. Viralmarketing, by its very nature, makes this even harder as the sheer number of customersengaging with the company could increase exponentially.Having appropriate system capabilities within the company was also highlighted in theinterviews, especially when companies are looking to use viral marketing as the tool tomarket their digital products (Herbison & Armitage 2011). In the case of KIK, Viber andSkyscanner, hundreds of thousands of download requests could hit the servers in a matterof hours. Companies need to build a strategy around this exponential increase in trafficwhen considering the viral marketing route. Failure to deal with this could result inpotentially irrecoverable damage to the brand.MBA Dissertation Page 43
  45. 45. This exponential increased traffic could also mean a similar increase in customers trying toengage with the company. The companies need to decide how to tackle this increase incustomer engagement.5.4 ProductInterviewees felt that emotional connection with the receiver is one most importantvariable in the spread of a viral message (Gilchrist 2011) (Burnett 2011) (Setty 2009). Theother is the ease with which the receiver can pass it on to their network (Burnett 2011).Online viral messages, like videos, that appeal to the viewers can be easily shared overinternet through blogs, websites and social networks.The research shows that digital products are slightly different. The product themselves haveto be brilliant at what they are meant to do in addition to the promotions around them.They should also possess characteristics that allow the user of the products to spread themessage easily (Burnett 2011) (Setty 2009). Viber’s ability to invite other users from withinthe product and easy connections to the social networks help customers share theirexperiences very easily.Price is another characteristic. It seems to be the case the offering a free product for thecustomers to try the basic functionality, and a paid version for the premium functionalitycould lure a lot more customers to start with (Burnett 2011). On the other hand, a reallygood product can demand a premium price and people will still buy it. They key differencehere is usually in the speed of adoption. Free digital products seem to get a wider spreadmore quickly while the paid products may reach the similar amount of downloads, but ittakes a lot more time to get there.5.5 InfluencersMBA Dissertation Page 44
  46. 46. Knowing the key influencers in each market and each channel within the market is key toany marketing campaign. According to the research, viral marketing of the digital productsseems to be no different. Getting the right package to the influencer is important as well i.e.understand what motivates each influencer and provide them with what they are lookingfor. For example, in some case monetary rewards may be frowned upon. Influencers writeabout products as they are passionate about them rather than seeking money. In a typicalProduct Diffusion Curve (Godin 2005) they want to be seen as the Innovators or the veryearly adopters who influence the majority of people – that’s what gets them going. So,many a times an exclusive preview of the product might do more wonders than a monetaryreward.What seems to make viral marketing different, according to the research, is the concertedeffort by the key influencers in the online space, to push the product and the marketingmessage to a critical point where no further market push is required and the customersthemselves become the product evangelists who then promote the products within theirown networks (Burnett 2011).5.6 Creating a campaignTraditional viral campaigns contain highly creative and unique content with emotionalimpact (Setty 2009). The secondary research seems to suggest that all viral marketingcampaigns need this kind of content. However, the interviewees had different point ofviews. The interviewees from companies that had digital products seem to suggest that agood product promoted in traditional ways using highly influential people in the rightchannels in the right markets are the best way to go about marketing the product andbuilding momentum (Herbison & Armitage 2011). However, the interviewees who camefrom a consulting or a strategic point of view were divided in their opinion in that one ofthem stressed on the importance of creativity of the promotional message around theproduct and the other about the importance of both creativity combined with a brilliantproduct.MBA Dissertation Page 45
  47. 47. Further to this, everyone seemed to agree on the fact that the consumers today are veryclever when it comes to identifying whether a campaign is genuine or just a selfish effort toget the company noticed. So, the marketing efforts have to be very high-quality and ensurethat the receiver gets a genuine benefit from the content.In my opinion, the fantastic product is absolutely crucial to any viral marketing campaign fordigital products, unless the company is aiming to create a one hit wonder, in which case theproduct itself is irrelevant. Ideally the product needs to be designed for social spread withideas from influencers – to get an early buy-in. Designing a creative promotional messagethat would have a viral appeal in addition to a good product should increase the chances fora product going viral. However, creating a message that is genuine and makes sense - onethat aligns with the brand, identifying the right influencers in the right markets,understanding what motivates them and engaging with them accordingly, and a high qualityjoined up effort from people within companies is far more important.5.7 Campaign managementThe three main areas that the research points out as important in terms of campaignexecution are Seeding, Monitoring and Managing.Seeding is about influencing the influencer i.e. making sure enough key influencers in thetarget markets like the product and they are ready to promote it in their channels, hopefullyto the extent that the message gathers enough momentum to reach the Tipping Point.The interviewees seemed to agree on the role of the influencers, but backed differentapproaches when it came to building momentum. One of the approach discussed was tosubmit the products to influential websites then hope that enough users will read and sharethe message. Another approach was to build on top of the previous approach and create anintegrated marketing campaign, perhaps using mass media campaigns to get maximumexposure (Gilchrist 2011). Finally, one interviewee talked about identifying influencers withworldwide network of other influencers covering all online channels, and leveraging thatnetwork to build momentum (Burnett 2011).MBA Dissertation Page 46
  48. 48. I believe that companies need to look at all the options available to them. All approachesidentified in the primary and secondary research seemed logical. A particular approach thata company adopts would perhaps depend on the combination of the following factors -product type, the specific markets for the product, the channels where the key influencersare and whether they have personal network of other influencers in the relevant market,and the financial resources available to the marketing team – e.g. mass media marketing ismuch more costly that social media marketing.Once the campaign is launched, the interviewees believed that channels in each marketneed to be monitored for the spread of the message (Herbison & Armitage 2011). This isdone using a variety of free or paid tools for each channel within each market. For example,Google Analytics could be used to monitor the number of clicks to a website, but acompletely different tool was used to measure the number of users a tweet would reach, orhow many retweets did the message get on Twitter.The research suggests that conversations on the relevant channels also need to bemonitored for positive or negative feedback. Reward positive feedback, if possible, even if itis with a simple acknowledgement - it will buy customer loyalty. Monitoring the network forany negative feedback and managing customers perception when it happens was alsohighlighted as crucial, especially the rogue elements, for instance competitors, trying tospread negative feedback (Gilchrist 2011). One of the interviewee suggested that companiesshould have crisis management strategy in place to be able to deal with such thingseffectively (Gilchrist 2011). However, all interviewees felt that this can be very resourcehungry task and most companies only really engage in a selection of channels with thecustomers (Dargavel 2011) (Herbison & Armitage 2011).The research also shows that the measurements of sentiments – Netnography (Kozinets2010) - in the online networks is quite a complex and tricky subject, and the tools availableto do this kind of analysis are far from perfect (Herbison & Armitage 2011). These toolsinvolve scraping relevant data from the conversations customers have on online channels.The analysis of this data is still quite primitive in that it cannot deal with the variation indialects, cultural variations in meaning of words, language variations, and slang to name afew. This means a lot of this analysis requires manual manipulation of data which is veryMBA Dissertation Page 47
  49. 49. time consuming and expensive. Hence, the companies use netnographic analysis for verysimple things like brand mentions.In terms of measuring the Return on Investment the interviewees felt that it is quite asimple process for digital products as you can measure the number of downloads andcompare it with message spread, and the cost of running the campaign (Dargavel 2011).Having a Plan B, in case the seeding fails, was seen as quite important campaignmanagement tool. This could be another set of seeds or a different spin on the product orperhaps a mass media marketing campaign.5.8 SustainabilityEvery company’s dream is a sustained high growth of their products. Since viral marketingcould potentially provide a means of sustaining exponential growth over a long period oftime, it is quite a lucrative concept. Even though the interviewees thought sustaining thelevel of growth that come from a successful viral marketing campaign is theoreticallypossible, say by repeating brilliance time and time again (Gilchrist 2011), being able to thispractically was very hard (Burnett 2011) (Gilchrist 2011). The research seems to tilt in favourof creating campaigns to increase the average growth over a longer period instead.5.9 SummaryAs social media and social networking is such a new concept, companies are finding it quitehard to come to terms with the fact that it is more than just something social, that socialnetworks are valuable places where customers interact with each other and communicatetheir opinions about brands. These online social networks are extensions of real world socialnetworks (Dye 2000). In the real world influencers used to, and still, play an important rolein spreading word about a product (Kozinets et al. 2010). They put their reputation on theline when they do so and hence they have to make sure that products are of top quality.MBA Dissertation Page 48
  50. 50. Such is the case with online product marketing, the only difference being the influencers cannow be found writing blogs, freelance articles, reviewing products, tweeting their opinionsetc.Just like strategy is important in creating word-of-mouth campaigns in the real world, it isalso important in social media space. As companies become aware of the importance of thesocial media, the impact it can have on company’s brand, and the opportunity it provides,they are slowly beginning to include social media as part of their overall business andmarketing strategy.Marketers need to consider viral marketing on social media like any another marketingchannel. They also need to develop integrated marketing strategy in order to decide howbest to make use of mass media marketing and social media marketing to have themaximum predictable reach (Watts, Peretti & Frumin 2007).Due to the nature of viral marketing on social media i.e. the potential of rapidly attractingmillions of customers without limited geographical boundaries, companies need to closelyconsider their capabilities.Viral messages by their nature are very hard to control when they go truly viral. Marketersneed to be prepared for both positive and negative feedback on the product – making surethere are enough people in the company, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities,who are ready to deal with both positive and negative feedback from a viral marketingcampaign. As much as the positive feedback could potentially put the company on the pathof exponential growth, the negative feedback on a viral campaign has the potential todamage a company’s reputation irrevocably. Companies need to have a crisis managementstrategy in place in case something does go wrong.Companies also need to make sure their systems are capable of dealing with the suddenincrease in traffic to their servers if a viral marketing campaign does become successful.The quality of product itself has to be exceptional when planning to include viral marketingcampaign as part of the overall marketing campaign. Viral messages are usually spread byinfluencers, and influencers usually would not put their reputation on line within theirMBA Dissertation Page 49

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