Viral messaging has been increasingly popular since the late 90s, as a rather aggressive marketing technique. During the past decade, the exponential growth of social networks and other internet-based communication services has transformed viral messaging into a communication strategy, boosting its pervasiveness and effectiveness.

The more recent outcome has been a further transformation of viral messaging from a simple marketing strategy into a new means of social media campaigning. Especially in China rumours are being spread virally on social media such as Weibo and Wechat. Economists and political scientists have analysed various forms of viral messaging and how they influence receivers to update their beliefs and change their behaviours, but there is an evident gap in the current understanding of viral messaging regarding the identification of more general features that may concern wide sections of a population of receivers (e.g. all citizens of a region), across a variety of sensitive topics, through a multiplicity of media, with long-term strategic goals.

This project will investigate the general factors that facilitate or hinder the “virality” of a message – e.g., content, source, disseminations means, time of dissemination and format – and analyse what factors could realistically be observed and identified, using which methodologies, in newly emergent messages that would suggest that those messages are likely to become viral.