What Drives Interpersonal Communication? Virality, Word-of-Mouth, and the New York Times Most Emailed List

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jonah Berger

Assistant Professor of Marketing
University of Pennsylvania

Why are some products talked about more than others? What makes certain online content viral? While people often share opinions and information with others, and such transmission has important consequences for the diffusion of products and ideas, much less is known about why people talk about and share certain things rather than others. In this presentation, I will cover some recent projects examining characteristics of products, brands, and information that are linked to transmission. One uses data on six months of New York Times articles (as well as a number of experiments) to investigate what types of article make the most emailed list. Controlling for where the articles actually appear, we examine how psychological characteristics of content (e.g. how surprising it is or how much emotion it evokes) are linked to virality. Another uses data on over 300 buzz marketing campaigns (as well as a controlled field experiment) to examine characteristics of products and campaigns that generate more word-of-mouth. A third examines differences between online and offline social transmission.

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