WOM: Viral Marketing for the Real World

Influx Insights notes that Duncan Watts, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, was recently interviewed on the topic of viral marketing for HBR’s Ideacast series.

Watts starts out by explaining how viruses work, highlighting how it’s well known to science that a small number of people start epidemics. For a virus to become an epidemic, it requires each infected person infects at least one other person. Infect less than one and a viral epidemic doesn’t occur.

In science terms, an epidemic requires a “reproduction rate” of 1.

Watts believes marketers need to now think beyond viral, to an alternative that he calls Big Seed Marketing. This demands marketers go beyond the analogy of viral, where current thinking demands that viruses start with a small number of people. His recommendation is not to replace traditional marketing with viral, but introduce viral elements to traditional programs.