Why I Research Viral Marketing

I woke up to my phone ringing. It was David.

“Brent! Where have you been!? Goddammit, I’ve been trying to get in contact with you—check your emails!”

Argh. I grabbed my notebook from the side table and flipped it open.

“I’m ah… Wait. What’s happened?” David was still jabbering, while I stared at my screen. I had a never-ending stream of new emails from people I had never heard of, and they were still loading. Some of them were reporters requesting an interview, others were office workers thanking me for my study, people with questions, and academics congratulating me.

I tuned back in to David “Your study is in the New York Times and it’s trending on Twitter!”

I crawled back under my covers in disbelief. This was gonna be a long day.

The University had put out a press release on my “Freedom to Surf” study, and it had gone viral. For the next few days my phone didn’t stop ringing. I gave radio station and media interviews from USA to Europe, and fielded what seemed like a never-ending barrage of emails. The press were reporting that a new study had found that surfing the internet at work was good for productivity. For some reason people couldn’t stop talking about it.

I had my 15 minutes of fame as they say. But what really intrigued me about what had happened was why my story had spread so wide and far, and so quickly.

And so begun my next research interest: why things go viral.

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