The Dynamics of Viral Marketing

We present an analysis of a person-to-person recommendation network, consisting of 4 million people who made 16 million recommendations on half a million products. We observe the propagation of recommendations and the cascade sizes, which we explain by a simple stochastic model. We analyze how user behavior varies within user communities defined by a recommendation network. Product purchases follow a ‘long tail’ where a significant share of purchases belongs to rarely sold items. We establish how the recommendation network grows over time and how effective it is from the viewpoint of the sender and receiver of the recommendations. While on average recommendations are not very effective at inducing purchases and do not spread very far, we present a model that successfully identifies communities, product, and pricing categories for which viral marketing seems to be very effective.

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