Understanding the role of emotion in viral marketing

Master Thesis

2013

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University of Cape Town

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Using the Internet to share content online is not only a daily activity for many people, yet a means to share their experiences and emotion with others. This study aims to answer why Internet users in South Africa share content online and to better understand the role of emotion in viral marketing. There are three main objectives of this study: to determine what encourages people to share content online, to investigate the role of emotion in sharing content online and to determine whether there is a difference between sharing content that elicits positive emotion versus sharing content that elicits negative emotion. The findings assist marketers in conducting viral marketing campaigns that appeal to consumers. Using a two-stage research design, qualitative and exploratory research was conducted. The first-stage is netnography, which is a derivation of ethnography, and was based on YouTube. The second-stage consisted of semi-structured interviews that included two viral video marketing campaigns. This study found that people share content online when content that appeals to people is relevant. Whether people find content relevant or not can depend on their age and/ or gender. People share content online to be altruistic, for self-benefit and social capital. An additional reason for sharing content online is when the content is emotionally appealing. Particularly, it was found that content that elicits positive emotion is more likely to be shared than content that elicits negative emotion. This study addresses gaps in literature in the following ways. Firstly, viral marketing is a growing concept that requires updated research about to provide an understanding of viral marketing that is consistent with its changes in its practice. Secondly, the model provided in this study defines what sharing means in terms of viral marketing, which no other study has done. Thirdly, where previous authors disagree about the difference between sharing content that elicits positive emotion versus sharing content that elicits negative emotion, this study contains updated findings which show that content which elicits positive emotion is more likely to be shared. Additionally, this study shows how the Social Sharing of Emotion theory can be applied to a viral-marketing and online context. The contribution that this study makes is that literature can benefit by understanding that content is king and relevance is important in encouraging people to share content online. Additionally, marketers should focus on creating content that is useful or makes the sender look good socially. Most importantly, to encourage people to share content online, the content should be emotionally appealing and focus should be placed on ensuring the content elicits positive emotion.
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