Dave Studies Media

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Psychology of Viral Marketing?

I've been watching something very interesting transpire on Facebook. At some point this afternoon I noticed an invitation to a Facebook group called "Psychology of Marketing Project - I need your help!!!"

The group's description is as follows:

I'm doing a paper in my Human Behaviors - The Psychology of Marketing class. The paper is about the marketing world and the changes that have taken place in the last 5 years. One of the main points that I'm trying to make is how influential viral marketing can be. One individual with an average facebook account can reach 100,000+ people in less than a week just by making a group and inviting people. There have been other experiments where this worked, my paper talks about the likelihood that it can be duplicated.

What you need to do to help me is:

1. Join this group.

2. Click on "Invite People to Join" from the menu on the right.

3. Select all your friends (for this to work you must do this).

4. Click on "Send invitation"

5. Add me as a friend! (only if you want!!:))

The experiment begins now!!(Friday March 14th 4:45 PM EST). The paper is due when I get back from spring break on March 31st!!

Thank you to everyone in advance!!!

The experiment is being conducted by Monica Rockle from Los Angeles. What's amazing about this experiment is how well it's working, assuming the goal is to amass many members in a short amount of time. As of this moment, the group has 74 583 members, but that's probably changed in the few seconds it took me to switch tabs and write this sentence. You can sit there refreshing the page and watch the member count jump by 5 or 10 people each time.

On the group's discussion boards, a few conversations have sprung up about the legitimacy of this "project". There are a few reasons to doubt it, such as the mysterious link to a collection of t-shirts at cafepress. The picture of this "Monica" is also a high-quality image, and looks somewhat professional, like something from the cover of Macleans when they do the annual university review. In response to one of the discussion threads, Monica writes,

Actually I am real! This is a real assignment! The link is part of the assignment. Remember it is a psychology paper. If you know anything about Psychology experiments you use dummy stories. The link is related to the MARKETING portion of the experiment. Just to clear things up!

Regardless of the legitimacy of the group, it still effectively demonstrates what an overwhelmingly powerful tool something like Facebook is for reaching a large audience very quickly. And, on the psychological side of things, it's pretty interesting that what's powering this group's explosive popularity is people's willingness to contribute to the endless barrage of information we're all subject to, by inviting everyone on their friends list to join the group. I thought about this for a couple minutes before I did it, and then commenced checking off every individual box to add each and every one of my acquaintances to the lab rat list. I don't think I've clicked that fast since back in the days when I actually played games. I somehow felt compelled to do this, though, because I believed it was for a good cause. An interesting cause. I imagine it's those nuances of motivation and compliance that Miss Rockle will be exploring in her paper.

...Just imagine Facebook's potential to facilitate some culture jamming! The possibilities are...intriguing.

About 20 minutes after posting that first figure...
Current member count: 77 290

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  • First off, I did not send the list to all of my "friends" . I get these "experiment" group/project invites all the time. I do believe it is a good cause and has legitimacy, however I do not believe that these experiments are accurate. These experiments are missing one key component in my opinion and from experience, they don't require the user to do anything other than invite. I am the founder of a academically based social network. I have had a great deal of feedback at how useful the site is and how great the design and functionality are, however the word of mouth hasn't taken off. It's one thing to get viral marketing to take off when there is no "work" involved, but when they have to spend 90 seconds signing up for a new page...These are just my thoughts and would love to hear your feedback!


    Aaron Allina

    By Blogger Juke, At March 19, 2008 at 8:09 AM  

  • I also did not spam this group to any of my friends.

    I absolutely agree with what Juke said. People are willing to help out an attractive, blond-haired student in a project, but is it an accurate portrayal of viral marketing? Do the same project and put up a picture of someone who is not as attractive, claim to be from a marketing company and compare the differences. I can guarantee you that you'd have fewer members, and MUCH different results.

    By Blogger Marie, At March 19, 2008 at 4:38 PM  

  • Marie,

    As I hinted at in my post, I noticed that too, and I suspect that might actually be the whole point of the project.

    I sent a private message to Monica and she replied within 10 minutes. After that I was able to look at her profile, which was totally blank. I suspect the whole Facebook account is a fake, created just for this project. That would explain the profile picture. Maybe somebody is also investigating how many people will cooperate, even if they smell something fishy.

    By Blogger Dave, At March 19, 2008 at 5:08 PM  

  • juke,

    Well, I agree that it's different. As far as "accuracy" goes, I'm not sure this experiment and the other kinds of experiments you're thinking of have enough in common to be able to say this.

    I think this project has merit in that it explores what can happen on Facebook and Facebook alone, with a very specific setup. (Pretty girl, asking nicely, etc.)

    By Blogger Dave, At March 19, 2008 at 5:17 PM  

  • Dave,

    You have a point. It's hard to know what the experiment even is, if it is even an experiment at all. I guess my point is that I've seen so many of these, where the main point seems to be to grow a group as large as possible and any method that can be used is used. I just wanted people to be aware that there is a lot that goes into a good experiment and all of these groups are missing some important pieces.



    P.S. I have a great interest in this particular topic as I run a social networking site and I am trying to learn how to grow it with out abusing the system.

    By Blogger Juke, At March 19, 2008 at 8:32 PM  

  • I remember about a year ago, our local radio station ran a contest to see who could have the most 'friends' on facebook. Facebook found out about it and banished one of the leading contenders, simply because they were spamming the site with requests to be friends with everyone. That request probably started off with 20 people. I remember the radio station (The Beat 94.5) tried to call up Facebook and they got ahold of someone who was very pleasant and they worked it out on the air. ...I can't remember where I was going with this story...I had a few beers tonight. I'm moving tomorrow and my friends dragged me out...

    It was along the lines of ... The whole "project" shit is bogus. The picture is bogus, the scenario is bogus, and the fact that the group is linked to a company...Well, that's bogus too!

    By Blogger Marie, At March 19, 2008 at 11:40 PM  

  • sometimes it isn't about what your blog, but how your blog can generate discussion on a variety of topics. this is a good example of how you've brought others into the fold.


    By Blogger I. Reilly, At April 9, 2008 at 12:34 PM  

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