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Seeding Strategies for Viral Marketing: An Empirical Comparison

Seeding Strategies for Viral Marketing: An Empirical Comparison

Oliver Hinz, Bernd Skiera, Christian Barrot and Jan U. Becker

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Teaching Insight:

High-degree and high-betweenness strategies work best for viral marketing campaigns

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Related Marketing Courses: ​
Consumer Behavior; Digital Marketing; and Social Media Marketing;​​​​

Full Citation: ​
Hinz, Oliver, Bernd Skiera, Christian Barrot and Jan U. Becker (2011), “Seeding Strategies for Viral Marketing: An Empirical Comparison,” Journal of Marketing, 75 (6), 55-71.

Article Abstract
Seeding strategies have strong influences on the success of viral marketing campaigns, but previous studies using computer simulations and analytical models have produced conflicting recommendations about the optimal seeding strategy. This study compares four seeding strategies in two complementary small-scale field experiments, as well as in one real-life viral marketing campaign involving more than 200,000 customers of a mobile phone service provider. The empirical results show that the best seeding strategies can be up to eight times more successful than other seeding strategies. Seeding to well-connected people is the most successful approach because these attractive seeding points are more likely to participate in viral marketing campaigns. This finding contradicts a common assumption in other studies. Well-connected people also actively use their greater reach but do not have more influence on their peers than do less well-connected people. 


Special thanks to Kelley Gullo, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University, for her support in working with authors on submissions to this program. 

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Bernd Skiera is Chaired Professor for Electronic Commerce, Goethe University Frankfurt Dr. Skiera’s (PhD – University of Lueneburg) research interests include electronic commerce, online marketing, marketing analytics, consumer privacy, and value-based customer management. Dr. Skiera founded Marini Systems (, supporting companies when implementing robotic selling solutions. He is a member of the managing boards of the eFinance-Lab as well as the Schmalenbach Society, and he serves as the National Representative for Germany at the European Marketing Academy (EMAC).