A Social Networks Approach to Viral Advertising: The role of Primary, Contextual, and Low Influencers

Abstract: The diffusion of social networking platforms ushered in a new age of peer-to-peer distributed online advertising content, widely referred to as viral advertising. The current study proposes a social networks approach to the study of viral advertising and identifying influencers. Expanding beyond the conventional retweets metrics to include Twitter mentions as connection in the network, this study identifies three groups of influencers, based on their connectivity in their networks: Hubs, or highly retweeted users, are Primary Influencers; Bridges, or highly mentioned users who associate connect users who would otherwise be disconnected, are Contextual Influencers, and Isolates are the Low Influence users. Each of these users’ roles in viral advertising is discussed and illustrated through the Heineken’s Worlds Apart campaign as a case study. Providing a unique examination of viral advertising from a network paradigm, our study advances scholarship on social media influencers, and their contribution to content virality on digital platforms.

Itai Himelboim