How Fast Will It Spread?

Part 4 – How fast it spreads

This is the bread and butter of most marketing books. They all want to tell you that they have a secret formula (hint: always filter out any pages containing that phrase, even this one). Their secret formula will make you product fly around the world and win you zillions of users for nothing.

No it won't.

But you can speed up the rate at which your “idea disease” spread by working on some simple factors and tweeking them in your favour.

Contact ratio / Contact rateviral diseases spread best where there is close and immediate and frequent contact between large numbers of infected hosts and large numbers of susceptible uninfected hosts. The higher the number of contacts between an infected host and is susceptible uninfected host, and the shorter the time between contacts, the faster the disease will spread. 

Practical applications of this with Moviestorm include placing infected hosts (people who are good at making good videos) into large communities of uninfected hosts (movie makers) where there is rapid and frequent contact between them, such as occurs in conferences, media events, online forums, video display channels, and close-knit creative communities such as art schools, film study groups, content creating companies.

We are very lucky with something like Moviestorm in that we can actively influence the contact ratio.  We can encourage infected hosts to go to places where there are large numbers of uninfected and susceptible hosts for instance by offering prizes that align with other short moviemaking competitions.

Companies can also encourage infected hosts to recruit their friends. This is the classic “member gets member” (“MGM”) approach. By providing small incentive, be they points, social currency, cash, or affiliated products we can encourage people who already carry the idea / disease to spread it to their friends. By targeting and increasing the incentives we can improve the contact ratio, and the contact rate as we see fit. It is obviously be necessary to test, measure, and refine the incentives that we give in order to correctly determine the effect they have on the contact ratio and the contact rate over periods of time.

Speed of transmission – the more rapidly the virus is transmitted, the more rapid rate of uptake by others.  This is the factor which is most singularly ignored in almost all viral marketing campaigns where the common approach is to maximise the contact rate and ignore the speed of transmission factor. Real diseases long ago sorted this out… coughing, sneezing, touching, sex, blood contact,  deposits in sweat and body fluids, aerosols, are all very rapid ways to cover distance and infect new contacts. Movies and images and weblinks travel fast, and can be made to travel faster with links to the common “promote this” sites, like Digg, StumbleUpon and the like. Anything that enables someone to post a reference faster to a friend increases the speed of transmission.

A secondary benefit of increasing the speed of transmission is that it helps overwhelm the natural emergence of immunity in the hosts. (of which more later)

Transmission losses – the vast majority of virus particles are simply destroyed through natural processes and do not go on to cause disease.  The lower the transmission losses the higher the ultimate rate of infection. We must therefore carefully modify the infectious characteristics of our product so that it can survive for long periods of time in the environment without a host and still go on to infect others.  We must also ensure that references to our product in movies, blogs, forums and banners remain effective and current as a possible infectious spore for as long as possible.  This slightly flies in the face of advertising thinking, which is all about “the new”, but time after time companies I speak to have tales of old sites and old references continuing to generate traffic and users for months, sometimes years, after they were first created.

Infectivity – viruses vary in the ease with which they infect new hosts. One of the simple measures used is minimal infectious load that is the number of virus particles required to cause the disease in 50% or more of an uninfected community.

A previous post dealt with SNAP and NRS, so I'll hope you are keeping up at the back. It is scores like that which tell you whether your product will “catch” with the target market you have identified. It might even encourage you to follow some blogs on the subject (though caution is always advised as you have little enough time to launch your product, and none of that was marked as “read blogs” on your annual appraisal form, was it!) You can, if you have time, money and a good research school nearby, really dig deep into the factors that influence “infectivity”. Like this.

In marketing terms we have a wonderful measure called “the Effective Frequency” to help us grasp how much effort it will take to infect someone.

You can read that wiki entry, but what I hear from web advertisers now is that the magic number is “seven times”. So, if that was true, the seventh time someone hears about you in a short space of time, will be the moment they decide to buy. Not going to help much if they are in a cinema, or in a fields, or on a bus, or a party, is it! You need to ensure that the transmission is electronic and can be acted on instantly, while the urge to buy is strong.

So, more later, with some thoughts on why infections fail and what we can do about that with our products if we think of them as benign infections….

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