What are Your Favorite Viral Marketing Blogs?

I love what Guy Kawasaki is doing with Alltop (especially since I’m listed there) and they recently launched My Alltop, where you can create your own “magazine rack” of blogs.

I’m always looking for more great blogs to read, especially about viral marketing, so let’s use Alltop to crowdsource the creation of a viral marketing blog reading list.

I created a Viral Marketing Alltop and would love if you took a look at it and then let me know here in the comments what blogs I’m missing.

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What is Viral Marketing Science?

I tend to look at social and viral marketing on a campaign level, evaluating viral marketing campaigns as a whole instead of individual components. For me, viral marketing science is all about figuring out what and how things spread, as opposed to the more general “how communities interact online,” and so the science comes in when various elements are interacting with each other and with the audience.

It is important to note that this does not mean that viral marketing is purely tactical; on the contrary, there is a great deal of strategy present in how these campaigns fit into a brand’s overall marketing mix. The science is in hitting the sweet spot between viral tactical elements and overarching marketing strategy.

The fields I draw from commonly include sociology, neurology, statistics, history, psychology (especially of the evolutionary type), economics, biology and memetics. I also use metaphors, terms and models from epidemiology as tools to help communicate about viral marketing, as these are much more commonly understood.

I see much of the information currently available about social and viral marketing as being comprised of two distinct types: conjecture-driven and data-driven. The former is the majority, a formulation of advice based on anecdotal evidence and “what seems right.” My work with multivariate testing, combined with research from The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, has shown me that the actual data often disproves the conclusions drawn purely from gut-feelings. My efforts have focused on creating content that is backed by facts, not feelings, and falls into the data-driven bucket. I call it viral marketing science.

The first thing that got me thinking about the potential power of scientific viral marketing was, surprisingly, a work of fiction: Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. In it, the villain creates a biolingusitic virus based on a prototypical, brain-stem related Sumerian language. He uses the virus to basically enslave a whole bunch of people in a world domination plot.

I also believe that there is plenty of room for art in viral marketing; the creativity, intuition and improvisation involved in a successful campaign often come from a deep understanding of the data involved. But the brute creative genius most people assume is the core of contagious campaigns can make the entire exercise seem like black magic and entirely unpredictable. However, using scientific methods, it is possible for mere mortals to create repeatably viral campaigns.

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Alex Bogusky: What’s Wrong With ReTweets

Alex Bogusky is co-chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, or CP+B as those in the know like to say, a large advertising agency best known for edge-pushing viral marketing. As such, they’re also one of the few ad agencies whose work I admire. CP+B has won a slew of awards; they were recently named Creativity’s Agency of the Year and have collected a handful of One Club Pencils in just a few years.

After a short stint on Twitter, Alex publicly quit the micro-blogging service, saying it “wasn’t for him.” Intrigued by his thoughts on ReTweeting, I asked him to do an email interview.

Dan Zarrella: I’m a huge fan of the viral work CP+B has done, especially for Burger King (most famously the Subservient Chicken and most recently the Whopper Sacrifice). You guys seem to be using new mediums and platforms to build these campaigns. Have you used Twitter like this yet, or do you have any plans to?

Alex Bogusky: That’s really kind of you to say. We just love interacting with consumers instead of talking at them. We love the back and forth. We’re playing around a little bit with the Old Navy Supermannequins. Just getting going but it should get interesting soon.

DZ: Do you think Twitter has reached a critical mass yet where big brands are well served by engaging the audience there?

AB: I don’t know the raw numbers for twitter but there are certainly some big wins to be had. But we can’t really look at any social media in isolation because they’re all bouncing off one another and influencing each other in real time.

DZ: To me ReTweeting is an incredibly open and powerful viral messaging mechanism. Do you think ReTweeting is going to be an important tactic for viral marketing in the future?

AB: It could be. It’s certainly faster at garnering more eyeballs than e-mail, IM or chat. The question will be does it amplify or simply speed up the process. Right now we have no way of knowing because it hasn’t got the adoption yet.

DZ: You and Chris Anderson (among others) have recently expressed concern with the carefree and often intent-changing way in which the tweets you post are ReTweeted. My understand is that the core problem is that if someone else ReTweets your content, but rewrites it, it may appear that you’ve said something you haven’t. Is this a big enough problem to make you weary of ReTweeting as a marketing form?

AB: This is my personal issue with retweeting and it makes me personally uncomfortable. As a marketer I don’t see it as a concern. You want people to put their stamp on marketing even if it seems negative. Consumers play rough and you have to let them play. But as a consumer I would be concerned that somebody can appear to be putting your thoughts forward but in fact they have changed them. Maybe even reversed them. It seems like it would benefit the service to somehow lock the original message if it is presented as a RT.

DZ: What do you think is the most exciting and/or important thing about Twitter for viral marketing going forward? (Is there anything exciting or important?)

AB: I don’t like to approach new media as a marketer. I prefer to approach it as a consumer and that appreciation is more likely to inspire thinking that might help our clients. Like any new media there will be significant resistance to marketing/advertising. That was a huge them with Subservient Chicken. It was actually the first hyper successful marketing foray into the web and it pissed a lot of people off. We can expect some of the same here. Twitter will also put off integrating marketing into the service for as long as possible to get the raw numbers up and the behavior fully adopted. But at some point to monetize they will probably look to advertisers. So I think we can expect the tools that marketer have at their disposal to increase in the same way it did with Google. It may all be fairly invisible to the user ala adwords but the ability to monitor and jump into real time conversations will have tremendous appeal. I’m a little skeptical of its actual value or to put it more accurately I think this opportunity will be overvalued in the beginning in much the same way banners were overvalued in the beginning and then saw that value plummet. But I’m not a futurist. Specifically because I’ve been around long enough now to see that most predictions don’t pan out. What I like about twitter is what’s happening right now and what will be happening in the next fifteen minutes. It’s extremely exciting.

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Introducing the ReTweetability Index

If we want to be able to create contagious Tweets, we have to know what contagious Tweets look like. And I’ve created a new site that allows you to do just that: ReTweetability.com.

The site has a list of the most ReTweetable users, as well as a search feature that allow you to find the most contagious users Tweeting about various topics.

There are 3 major areas where Twitter users can affect the number of ReTweets they get:

  • Followers
  • Tweeting Volume
  • Contagiousness of Content

We know what “more followers” and “more Tweets” look like, providing well-defined targets in those areas, but, until now, there has been no standard measurement of contagiousness.

I’ve looked into the effect that a user’s number of followers and content of their Tweets had on the level of ReTweeting that occurred. Predictably, the number of followers you have will get you more ReTweets, but the correlation isn’t as strong as expected. Certain patterns of common words and phrases do emerge.

Lists that rank users by the simple number of times they are ReTweeted are not displaying a list of those users with the most ReTweetable content. If a user has a large number of followers, or posts a huge amount of content, naturally they’re going to get more ReTweets; however, it is important to note that this is not due to how contagious his or her Tweets were.

What I’m trying to do with the ReTweetability metric is begin to develop a simple formula upon which the infectiousness of a user’s content can be measured. This algorithm would eliminate the effect of the user’s follower count and Tweeting rate.



The ReTweetability metric I’m using for the index right now is based on the natural logarithm of both the followers and Tweets per day numbers. This is done to compress the range of variation in both numbers, while acounting for the power law shaped graph displayed by the distributions of the two variables.
Prior to using the logarithm, the formula over-penalized users with higher than average followers (around 100) and Tweets per day (around 5), which turns out to be most users.

I’ve also explored the possibility of using the square root of the 2 values; this produces a range smaller than without using the natural logarithm, but larger than with it. I would love to have a discussion about the correct method for this, and I expect some variation in the formula here.

Due to the extremely small result of the formula, I’ve had to multiply it by 10,000,000 to enhance its readability — I would also love feedback on this.

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