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Book Chapter

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Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics

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Viral marketing refers to the application of traditional word-of-mouth marketing to the online environment. Originally developed by Steve Jurvetson and Tim Draper in 1997, the term is used to describe online techniques designed to generate peer-to-peer conversation and buzz about a company, brand, product, or service. A message that contains something of value or appeal is diffused throughout members of a given social network, and ideally across networks, in an exponential fashion, much like the spread of a virus in medical parlance. The rapid adoption of digital and social media tools by politicians has led to an increased visibility and impact of viral marketing efforts in political campaigns, particularly since the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign. Common viral marketing techniques include, but are not limited to, a systematic and strategic deployment of viral e-mail messages, You Tube videos, blogs, microblogs (such as Twitter), social networking Web sites, podcasts, online games, and text messages.


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