Viral Marketing via the New Media: The Case of Communication Behaviour in WhatsApp

Yu, Chong Wan1; Kamarulzaman, Yusniza1
Faculty of Business and Accountancy, University of Malaya, Malaysia.,

Abstract: WhatsApp is the number one smartphone application in Malaysia. With its enormous user base, WhatsApp is a platform with considerable potential for viral marketing, which is a form of electronic word-of-mouth. Past literature indicates that the success of viral marketing greatly depends on a user's decision to forward viral content, with the user's intention being the key factor leading up to it. Although different models have been proposed in electronic word-of-mouth viral marketing behaviour, these platforms do not work entirely the same way as WhatsApp, which is a mobile instant messaging application. In addition, the factors affecting the user's participation in viral marketing, as suggested by past literature, have been rather scattered and lack a consolidated view. To date, no study has been undertaken to specifically examine the behaviour of Malaysian WhatsApp users and its implications in terms of viral marketing. Therefore, there is a need to focus on the forwarding mechanism of WhatsApp messages in the Malaysian context and to identify the factors that influence users' intention to forward WhatsApp messages (BI). This research suggests a model of consumer intention to forward WhatsApp messages, and looks at the perceived message value (which comprises the perceived entertainment value (PEV) and perceived usefulness (PU) of the message), perceived ease (PEOU) of forwarding the message, and users' attitude. The results of the analysis suggest that the PEV, PU, and PEOU contribute to the positive consumers' attitude towards forwarding WhatsApp messages; while users' attitude mediates the relationship between these factors and BI. The study results show that there are factors that may be manipulated by marketers to create a "viral" wave for their marketing message, which may enhance the impact of the marketing message at relatively low cost. Users' attitude is found to be one of the factors that affects this mechanism, and one of the key factors leading to it is the perception concerning a WhatsApp message, with purposive and entertaining messages being preferred by Malaysian users. The findings of this study are useful for marketers and advertising agencies in developing a WhatsApp viral marketing strategy that may influence users to hit the "forward" button, thus creating a successful viral marketing campaign.

Keywords: Digital Marketing, WhatsApp Marketing, Viral Marketing, Consumer Behaviour

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