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Paranormal WOM Creates Viral Role Model

The most recent box office numbers from Hollywood's sleeper hit Paranormal Activity once again illustrate the power of of social media word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. Within a month, the $15,000 thriller has morphed from midnight-only showings in a handful of college towns to a $100 million film.

'Demand It'

While some of the movie's buzz was organic; much of it was deliberately seeded. Paramount Pictures tapped a San Diego start-up, Eventful, to promote the film on social media channels, including Twitter, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Eventful is an online listing service for local events that has made its mark by creating websites for musicians and comedians. The service's "Demand It" tab - which lets fans request a performance in their town - has been used by  artists from Tim McGraw to Kiss in planning their concert tours. The company has also developed similar widgets on celebrities' Facebook and MySpace pages.

Paramount Pictures asked Eventful to do the same for Paranormal Activity, CEO Jordan Glazier told the Tribune.

At first, the studio planned to release the film in the top-10 cities that moviegoers requested. This list soon expanded to 20. Then, shortly after its release, Paramount said it would roll out the movie nationwide if one-million moviegoers demanded it. Though Glazier thought this would be a "big number" to hit, the movie reached its mark within several days of its initial release.

Publishing On-Demand

Book publishers also have used similar viral strategies to propel books to bestseller status. Voice and Hyperion, for example, created a widget for Michael J. Fox's "Always Looking Up," a 'Witchipedia' for "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" and a series of healthy cooking tips bestselling cookbook, "Cook Yourself Thin."
These viral campaigns have reached hundreds of thousands of potential book buyers-and they have done so through people they know and trust, which increases the likelihood that they will buy the book, said Voice and Hyperion's president and publisher Ellen Archer (via Publishers Weekly).

WOM Growth

Such tactics are poised for growth, industry studies show. Spending on word-of-mouth marketing from 2007 to 2008 rose 14.2% to $1.54 billion, and is expected to hit $3 billion by 2013, according to a PQ Media report based on extensive WOM research from PQ Media, writes MarketingCharts.com.

The report, "Word-of-Mouth Marketing Forecast 2009-2013", found that while year-over-year growth is expected to slow in 2009, WOM spending is on pace to grow another 10.2% this year, placing it among the fastest growing advertising and marketing segments. By comparison, the US economy - as well as the advertising and marketing services sectors - are all expected to decline in 2009 for the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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