BOFFINS studying email hoaxes have worked out that they spread like a viral epidemic, moving steadily through the social chain with a given incubation period for each infection.
In his report Esteban Moro, a maths professor at the University Carlos III of Madrid said that information is different from your standard cold bug in that information has value.
When an email pops up in our inbox, we make a quick decision whether to respond immediately or file it in a "do later" pile. So information spread is affected by the way tasks are scheduled.
In most cases the average delay between receiving an email and forwarding it on is about a day, but within this average is a great variation of extremes. About half of us answer an email within the first hour, while 20 per cent take more than a week.
In Physical Review Letters, Moro said that the behaviour of these people decides the fate of a YouTube cat video, chain mail hoax, or porn scandal rumour.
Teaming up with IBM he designed a real-world viral marketing experiment, a campaign that awarded a raffle ticket for a laptop to users who referred friends to a newsletter subscription.
The campaign was carried out in 11 countries and ultimately reaching more than 30,000 people, the experiment gave Moro the data to create a detailed model of viral information flow.
A piece of information goes viral if each infected person quickly spreads the email, video, or gossip to at least one other person..
Moro said that 90 per cent of viral marketing campaigns fail to reach this tipping point, but campaigns are often cost-effective because they may continue to spread, although at a much more pedestrian pace.
If the message goes to too many people who send out emails once every week, the chances that it will go viral are limited
It means that if you are designing a viral campaign you should know in about a month if you need to kill it off. µ
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