NEW YORK: A research team has successfully put numbers to a form of earned media that previously seemed to be almost unquantifiable.

Michael T. Ewing, David B. Stewart, Dineli R. Mather and Joshua D. Newton – all from Deakin University, Australia – outlined their analysis in the June 2014 issue of the Journal of Advertising Research.

They proposed that viral campaigns may actually have a statistical component providing marketers with insights into marketplace effects.

In How Contagious Is Your Viral Marketing Campaign? A Mathematical Model for Assessing Campaign Performance, the authors insist that few peer-to-peer campaigns are purely viral – that marketers' messages are organically reborn minute by minute on platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

Rather, there appear to be elements to these programmes that can help anchor them in quantifiable, comparable metrics.

The authors begin with the assumption that "most so-called 'viral' campaigns are made up of both viral and non-viral components".

Among the techniques fitting the latter description are "seeding" through mass-media advertising and direct mail – which are "inherently non-viral activities" – and highly targeted sharing though deliberate email distribution.

Building a mathematical model that separates the viral and non-viral components of a campaign enables marketers to more accurately measure the impact and cost-effectiveness of both contributing factors.

"In determining what contributed to the success of a marketing campaign," Ewing, Stewart, Mather, and Newton advise, "managers are cautioned not to overstate the contribution made by the viral components.

"Rather, they should examine the relative contribution that viral and non-viral processes make to the overall performance of their campaigns."

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research