Seeding a Message to Harvest Reach. Predicting and Optimizing the Spread of Electronic Word-of-Mouth

Ralf van der Lans 1 , Gerrit van Bruggen 2 , Jehoshua Eliashberg 3 ,  and Berend Wierenga 2
  • 1 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
  • 2 Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University
  • 3 The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


In a viral marketing campaign organizations stimulate customers to forward marketing messages to their contacts. To optimize a viral campaign it is necessary to predict how many customers will be reached, how this reach evolves, and how it depends on promotion activities. a new Viral Branching model can provide these results. It is based on insights from epidemiology and the spread of viruses and was adapted to a marketing context and an electronic environment. The model is applied to an actual viral marketing campaign in which over 200,000 customers participated during a six-week period. The results show that the model quickly predicts the actual reach of the campaign and serves as a valuable tool to support marketing decisions related to online campaigns

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