In my class presentation this week, I spoke about the potential market share, brand resonance and, ultimately, profit to be gained by companies who are able to crank out cost-effective and successful viral ad campaigns. As I noted, the strategy is applicable to anyone, from large companies looking to create a viral success in combination with more traditional campaigns in order to stand out (note: happy “hump day”), to charities looking for a fundraising boost.
If done correctly there are plenty of stats to prove the post-campaign benefits of viral advertising. But a great question posed at the end of the presentation focused on how we know what’s going to go viral. Right now there isn’t really a perfect answer for that – but someday there will be.
Much like advanced analytics has taken over all of the major professional sports, statistical analysis has been brought to marketing. While this specialized area of study is still in its infancy, ad firms are investing in research around what connects with people via video or post or any available platform. The level of detail is incredible. Observe:
This equation translated means that customer influence effect (CIE) of person j is equal to the degree of spread [aka the amount of messages posted] (w) plus the influence level of person j on person i times the customer influence effect of person i.
Deconstructing the equation further allows us to arrive at this conclusion: a person’s ability to influence someone else to become a customer of a certain company relates to how much they post about that company/idea/product while also factoring how good they are at being an influencer based on what they say, how they say it and how well they know the person being influenced while also factoring in how good of an influencer the person being engaged is themselves.
Bottom line, it’s a lot to take in and process. Which is why this has become a full scale area of scholarly study. Field research is underway to explore consumer levels of engagement with advertising, investigate the staying power of a message and figure out what correlation there is between engagement, staying power and making a purchase decision. In a separate area, researchers are attempting to learn more about the networks behind word of mouth and how that can lead to improved ad messaging and a better understanding of how many additional “eyes” word of mouth brings to a message. The goal is to build better value behind traditional marketing terms, such as net promoter score and customer referral value.
Much like on base percentage is now considered a golden statistic (whereas it was once a throwaway number on the back of baseball cards), perhaps we will learn that a stat like net promoter score is invaluable to companies looking to understand how to engage the right “activist” customers. There are some companies who seem to think they’re on to something along those lines. Yet much of today’s research is actually suggesting that older marketing metrics don’t really tell us much about customers or their preferences.
As crazy as this sounds, a certain segment of agencies, while doing no independent research of their own, are predicting that viral campaigns are a wave about to crest. They’ve created the role of “online talent agent” and are signing viral video stars. Viral video sensations are licensed to TV shows and commercial producers just like more traditional copyrighted content. Online personalities are booked for paid appearances. It turns out, this may be the most successful market for viral yet – with many licensures netting anywhere between $10 – 100,000 per contract.
And there’s still a long way to go – there are dozens of different avenues to go down. Research proposals have covered topics such as:
- The application of social marketing relative to industry (business-to-consumer vs. business-to-business)
- Relationship of lifetime value score to a customer’s level of influence
- Retention levels of word of mouth campaigns
- Statistical analysis of the minimum level of influence required to convert one person to customer
For any math lovers out there, a whole host of great numbers and equations await you. For those who love seeing talking camels, talking babies or flash mobs – there’s plenty of things headed your way too.
Kumar V., Bhaskaran, Vikram, Mirchandani, Rohan and Shah, Milap. “Creating a Measurable Social Media Marketing Strategy.” Marketing Science. March/April 2013. 32(2): 194 – 212.
Kinchen, Rosie. “Now Charlie Can Bite Your Finger Too.” The London Sunday Times. March 11, 2012. Pg. 17.
Teixeira, Thales. “How to Profit from Lean Advertising.” Harvard Business Review. June 2013. 23 – 25.