The Power of Hotmail Viral Marketing

BBC had a story in 2006 about a Hotmail plan of charging users for using its service in the midst of dotcom crash. The plan did not materialize yet five years after the story was released, people continuously forwarded the message. BBC News’ new feature of identifying popular stories enabled many people, including Tim Weber, the news writer, to discover the resurgence of this article’s popularity.

It was because of chain e-mails that enabled the story to circulate long after the news was released and the aftermath has been known for quite some time. But why was the story so popular?

  • The story matters to those who receive e-mails, especially those who used Hotmail to receive these message or at least to those who have Hotmail accounts.
  • The story was chronicled in BBC (whose link appears in the e-mail), a reputable and credible site which ensured recipients that the story was not a hoax.

The story gathered momentum via e-mail inboxes even if two things were quite easy to determine:

  1. The date of the BBC story was February 2001
  2. The screen shot of the Hotmail story showed an older version of the site

Yet people continue to forward it as if they were reading it. Forward first, then ask questions later. Which brings us to conclusion that:

  1. Compelling stories that matter to people are more likely to be distributed than those that are less significant to them
  2. Usage of highly credible sites help build confidence