Using strong and weak ties in viral campaigns

by Kristofer Mencák on August 3, 2009

This January I was pretty impressed by the new thinking CP&B did with the campaign Whopper Sacrifice. I am not talking about the morality in dropping friends on Facebook to get a free Whopper. What impressed me was that it was the first time I saw (or at least reflected on) anyone actively taking advantage of weak ties for a viral campaign.

When creating a campaign, designing incentives for it to go viral, it is definitely worth thinking about strong and weak ties. Strong ties are the ones we have with our closer friends and family. Weak ties are basically the ones we have with acquaintances.

Depending on what the goal is, there are pros and cons of using these.

One advantage of using weak ties is that it can make a campaign, like Whopper Sacrifice, to spread further faster. It jumps quicker between smaller networks of friends. However, there is little repetition – people are not exposed to the brand/message very much.

With a campaign designed to travel through strong ties, it might spread a little slower between different smaller networks. But on the other hand, people are often exposed to the message repeatedly.

Of course, exposing someone to a message or a brand too much is not good. A recent example was the Moonfruit campaign in which a random user that included the hashtag #moonfruit in one of their tweets was selected to win a MacBook.

In the words of Matthijs from Viral Blog:

“Personally, I didn’t like the campaign at all. It overflood the timeline from some of my friends and turned Twitter in a platform that was spammed with #moonfruit tweets. While they could have know that chances of winning were 0.0005%. People were seriously loosing friends by competing to win a MacBook with the Moonfruit campaign. I seriously unfollowed some followers because I turned absolutly crazy by their nonsense Tweets…”

One mistake they made was that they didn’t put a limit on the number of tweets with the hashtag anyone could post. With a limit of one tweet per day, I think most people would have been able to stand the campaign, even if several people in their network participated in it. Sometimes, it is important to limit repetition.

The lessons:

  • Repeated exposure, if it is too much, will damage a brand. It might be good to limit repetition, through incentives and rules for the campaign.
  • Giving monetary incentives or prizes for mentions diminishes the intrinsic motivation to talk about a brand, as the campaign results immediately after the campaign was finished clearly shows.

Read more about strong and weak ties in Mark Granovetters classic: The Strength of Weak Ties.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kristofer September 4, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Well, thank you! =)

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