News
News
8/23/2006
10:32 PM
50%
50%

Tracking Down 'Infectious Agents'

Finding the right people to create your "buzz" can be tricky. Here's how some companies have approached it.

Marketers frequently use the numbers of click-throughs and site visits to brag about the millions of people they have reached with a viral campaign. "But if they are not the right people, it's worthless," says Anne Holland, president of Marketing Sherpa, which publishes a marketing Viral Hall of Fame.

One of the keys to success in fostering so-called contagious behavior (see main article, "Beyond Viral: Using The Web To Nurture 'Contagious Behavior' Among Customers") is therefore finding the right people--so-called infectious agents--who will spread your message and help build a vibrant and sustainable community. The best agents are self-identified--the most fervent contributors to forums and message boards dedicated to a product or certain type of products.

"You have a whole bunch of people who are in there voluntarily helping other people-- staying up all night solving problems or answering questions," says Andy Sernovitz, CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), and author of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking (Kaplan 2006). "You need to empower these super-customers, give them something to talk about via blogs, e-mails, newsletters, or private newsgroups. Make them a part of the family and give them a reason to be even more emotionally attached to the product than they already are."

In many ways, finding the right people to infect can be very labor intensive, usually starting with a Google search, and painfully following all the potentially relevant links as they spider out across the Web. "You are acting more like an archeologist than a marketer, opening up the online manhole cover and exploring the world beneath you," says Marc Schiller, CEO of Electric Artists, a word-of-mouth marketing company.

But keeping your eyes open for such people will lead you to exciting new places, says Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser. She points to another example of success of extreme delegation, in the tricky area of Firefox quality assurance (QA). "QA testing is extremely difficult for a browser, because it runs across the Internet in so many configurations," she says. As it turns out, there were people willing to help out.

One of the most prominent was Asa Dotzler,, the founder and now the head of Mozilla's Quality Assurance and Testing Program, which grew under his leadership from just a few contributors to tens of thousands of volunteers today.

"Asa emerged early on as a key contributor, and when it became time to hire someone, there was no question of who that would be," says Baker.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.