Viral Marketing

I rarely forward humorous emails or Flash animations or movies because humor is so subjective and if a person doesn’t find what you’ve sent them funny, then all you’ve done is waste their time. I’m the exception.

On the other hand, I have a friend who regularly forwards funny stuff to me and a bunch of other people. I always open his emails because I know him and I trust his judgment since everything he sends me is funny. He’s the rule.

And now we have stats to back it up.

conducted in September 2005 and released late last month show that the vast majority (89%) of adult Americans share content with others by email.


Twenty-five percent of the respondents shared content daily; 23% did it several times a week; 15% about once a week; 11% several times a month; 15% several times a year; and 11% had never shared content via email.

Friends Lists

Most people email content to more than one person. Forty-one percent shared content with one to three people; 34% shared it with four to six people; 13% shared it with seven to nine people; 9% shared with 10 to 20 people; and 3% emailed more than 20 people content.

Hot Topics

Humorous content is by far the most popular type of content shared, with 88% of respondents saying they forward jokes or cartoons. Fifty-six percent said they forward news; 32% shared health care or medical information; 30% shared religious or inspirational content; 25% shared games; 24% emailed business or personal finance related information; 24% shared sports or hobby-related content; and 12% emailed sexually provocative material.

Branded Content

The fact that content is overtly branded does not seem to affect the likelihood that someone will email it to others. Only 5% said they would not share content that was branded, Thirty-five percent said they’d be slightly less likely to send branded content and 17% said they would be less likely; but 12% said they would be more likely to send branded content and 31% said they would be slightly more likely to send branded content.

Demographics Of Sharers

The most likely people to share content are southern or midwestern women in their late 30s to early 40s.  Blacks and whites (63%) are more likely to share content via email than Hispanics (56%) or Asian-Americans (46%). Education level doesn’t seem to matter much: Sixty-four percent of people without a college degree shared content weekly versus the 61% who had a college degree.

Make Sharing Easy

This survey makes clear that, even if you aren’t conducting a explicit viral marketing campaign, you should make your content as easy as possible to share. That means giving the consumers of your content all the tools they need to share. That’s why you’ll find my "Save to My Web" and "Furl This Page" and "Post to" and "Email this Page" links on sidebar of this blog. That’s why you can bookmark or instant message individual posts on this blog. If you have an email newsletter, be sure to include a "forward this to a friend" function.

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