Viral Marketing: the influence of email sources

In marketing on December 29, 2009 by Magnolia Tagged:

The type of the source of the viral message plays a fundamental role on an individual’s decision to open or not an email and her/his evaluation of the content of the viral message. The results of the research I undertook to analyze the phenomenon of viral marketing show important differences between personal and non-personal email sources:

The values of this table indicate the order of importance of the source of the viral marketing message. The most important sources are strong-tie sources such as friends and family. On the other hand, weak-tie sources such as companies and unknown people are ranked in the last positions by the respondents. Friends (0.72) are the most important source in order to open an email. They are followed closely by relatives (0.92). Colleagues (1.66) are the third most important source to open an email according to the respondents. Organizations and companies are placed fourth (2.73) and unknown people are the least important source in order to open an email (3.98).

My analysis of the influence of the sources of the viral marketing messages are mainly based on the investigations of Bruyn and Lilien (2008) and Crutzen and his colleagues (2008).

Bruyn and De Lilien (2008) analyzed the influence and effects of viral marketing. They undertook an experiment in which 5134 business students from a US university initiated a chain of e-mails. Researchers invited the students to send an e-mail-based referral to one of their acquaintances, inviting them to participate in the study. The response rate of this experiment was 14%, and the average completion rate reached 25.8%.

They analyzed the influence of the source of viral marketing messages on the receivers of viral marketing communication. They concluded:

  • The tie strength. Strong ties have a powerful influence in increasing awareness
  • Perceptual affinity. Personal sources, considered by the consumers as similar to them, help to generate interest about the viral message
  • Source expertise. Sources perceived by the consumers as experts on a specific area are not specially revelevant in order to influence consumer buying decisions.

Crutzen and his colleagues (2008) studied the persuasion power of the source of the viral marketing message taking into account different variables such as: type of relationship (friends, colleagues and relatives), gender, age and strength of the argument of the viral message. They developed an experiment which involved 236 university students of 18 to 24 years.

The conclusions of this investigation were as follows:

  • There is not any interaction or main effect regarding gender.
  • The invitation of a friend was more effective than any other source to attract young adults (18-25) to an Internet-delivered intervention.
  • The strength of the argument used in the viral message is not as relevant as the source that sends the message.
  • Viral marketing messages are more effective when they include an incentive.


Bruyn, A.,  De Lilien,  G., L., 2008.A multi-stage model of word-of-mouth influence through viral marketing. International Journal of Research in Marketing. 25 pp 151–163

Crutzen, R., de Nooijer, J., Brouwer, W., Oenema, A., Brug, J., and de Vries, N., 2008. Effectiveness of online word of mouth on exposure to an Internet-delivered intervention. Psychology & Health. 99999, pp. 1-11

One Response to “Viral Marketing: the influence of email sources”

  1. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will come back down the road. I want to encourage you to continue your great writing, have a nice morning!

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