Internet and viral marketing

By Priya Chetty on October 14, 2011

Viral marketing, another concept that evolved in the 1990s, finds its roots in the Internet. Ebook calls viral marketing “an old idea made new again by the Internet”. Similarly, Blanchard (2006) calls viral marketing “buzz marketing in its digital form”.

The term was first coined by Steve Jurvetson to describe the e-mail service developed by Hotmail (Godin, 2001). defines viral marketing as “a use of a self-perpetuation mechanism, such as a referral or affiliate program, to grow user base in a manner similar to the spread to a virus” ( Inc).

Viral marketing is often confused for word-of-mouth marketing. Blanchard (2005) states that viral marketing is, indeed, buzz marketing, but a much broader concept that connects people with similar interests through the internet. Marketers are taking word-of-mouth marketing to the next level “by influencing what is being said about their product”, which is enabled through the internet.

This relationship between viral, buzz and word-of-mouth marketing has been further explored by Kimmel (2010): “Off the internet, viral marketing has been referred to as ‘word-of-mouth’, ‘creating a buzz’, ‘leveraging the media’, ‘network marketing’. On the internet, it is often called ‘viral marketing’. The main advantages of viral marketing are their convincing power and low costs.

e-mails were originally used as a channel to spread a message like a virus (Aronson et al, 2007).  However, gradually, organisations started using more and more channels for the purpose of viral marketing; such as social networking sites, blogs, instant messages and even adver-games (Allen, 2008). Blogs as one of the channels for viral marketing have led an increase in revenues earned through web-based services by over ten times.

Scoble (2006) was one of the first to note that blogs were the best vehicle for viral marketing; and that “no other form of viral marketing matches the speed and efficiency of a blog”. Similarly, Hartnett (2006) says that blogging is a form of viral marketing that “combines the power of word of mouth with the efficiency of the internet”. Blogs can be used be organisations to discriminate their products form their competitors’ due to their growing popularity. In 2005, Susannah Gardner dedicated an entire book to the subject, titled ‘Buzz marketing with blogs for dummies’. Gardener in her book considers that ‘power of a blog lies in its buzz, or word-of-mouth that bounce from one blog to another and create impact on a mass scale’.

Blogs are also used for viral marketing purpose as ‘campaign blogs’. Plunkett (2007) recognised viral marketing to be “an excellent an excellent way to capitalise on th exploding number of social media on the Internet, like Blogs’.

The advantage of viral marketing through blogs is best shown by Harnett (2006): “Blogs are a low-cost form of viral marketing, and are gaining wide acceptance”.


  • Sernovitz, A; Godin, S and Kawasaki, G. “Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking”. Published by Kaplan Publishing pp 163.
  • Inc (2004): “Web marketing for small & home-based businesses: how to advertise and sell your products or services online”. Published by Productive Publications
  • Blanchard, R. (2005) “The Digital Challenge for Libraries: Understanding the Culture Published by iUniverse
  • Kimmel, A.J. (2010): “Connecting with Consumers: Marketing for New Marketplace Realities” Published by Oxford
  • Allen, K: “Viral Marketing 100 Success Secrets- Secret Strategies, Buzz Marketing Tips and tricks”. Published by pp 65.
  • Scoble, R; Israel, S: (2006): “Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing The Way Businesses Talk With Customers”. Published by Wiley.
  • Plunkett, J.W. (2007):”Plunkett’s Advertising and Branding Industry Almanac 2007″. Published by Plunkett Research.