Study Finds Consumers are Fans of Viral E-mails

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Viral e-mails have become an online hobby. That's great news for marketers looking for innovative tactics to be sure their messages are received.

Eighty-nine percent of adult Internet users share content with others via e-mail, according to a study by interactive agency Sharpe Partners. And they do it a lot: 63% share content at least once a week, and 25% pass along e-mails daily. As many as 75% of the respondents to the study said they forward content to up to six other recipients.

Humorous cartoons and jokes are the most popular messages sent. But due to the subjective nature of humor, if a marketer uses funny content, it's a good idea to let the target define what is amusing, the study found.

Consumers are only slightly less likely to send along overt brand messages. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they are less or slightly less likely to forward such content, while 43% said they are more or slightly more likely to send marketing-related messages. Only 5% said they refuse to share content that contains a brand message, and 75% said a brand sponsorship has no impact on the decision to forward.

Some 64% of females forward messages at least once a week, versus 58% of males. And women in their late 30s to early 40s who live in the Midwest or South share the most content.

The research, which surveyed 1,071 U.S. adults, was conducted online by Greenfield Omnibus from Sept. 23-26, 2005.

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