Email Marketing…4 Degrees of Separation

In 1967, a Harvard social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, conducted a study to see how connected people in the United States were to one another.  The results of the study, in which US postal service tracking methods were used, demonstrated that we can create “a chain of personal contacts leading to any other person, with no more than six links in the chain.”

In 2007, a similar study was conducted at Columbia University, using email as the medium.  That study demonstrated, although rather inconclusively, that we are connected to any other person, with no more than four links in the chain

 Interestingly, in 2008, more studies were connected using the actor Kevin Bacon, and a more global perspective.  The ultimate conclusion after looking at all of the data in this and other studies is that..whether 6 degrees or 4…it truly is a small world.  And, yes, we are all connected…much more closely than ever imagined.

Right about now, are you wondering…so what?  How is the relevant to my email marketing campaign? 

Well…actually…it’s very relevant.  For two reasons:

  1. You grow with viral marketing
  2. You thrive by reputation

While some people may wrinkle their nose at the term “viral marketing,”  it is simply refers to Internet word-of-mouth advertisement.  As email marketers, you benefit from it when one of your emails is forwarded from one of your customers to someone within their ” 4 or 6 degrees” who forwards it to someone else, and the circle widens, ultimately bringing in more business for you.  Or…maybe they “tweet” it, or put a link or reference to your website on their Facebook page where their friends see it. 

I like the idea that it’s 4 degrees rather than 6, because the fewer links there are in the chain, the faster the “virus” spreads, and the quicker you see results.  Either way, once your viral message gets out there…as the world gets “smaller” (closer), the quicker and further your message can be spread.

While your prospects and customers may, out of good will alone, share your email with someone, who is connected with someone else…who may also share it…they will all be more inclined to share it if there is a reward for doing so. 

Most email marketers  use viral marketing.   And most  include a reward or incentive…either a product or service…in return for helping spread the message.  And…why not?  After all, you’re asking to use someone else’s resources, effort and time, to your benefit.  Shouldn’t it also be to their benefit?

All of this brings us to the second reason for focusing how little separation there is in the world today — reputation.  Realizing how small a world it is, and how few links there are between your one customer and anyone else in the world helps you understand how absolutely critical it is to maintain your reputation. Your viral message can spread in a “good way”; in a way that is helpful to building your business and spreading your unique value message.  Or… it can spread in a “bad way,” in a way that tears down your business because one customer of yours had a bad experience, and starting spreading that message…in a viral way.

The success of your email marketing campaign…your business…depends on building a good reputation, and “spreading the word” through viral marketing techniques.  If there are only 4 degrees of separation in email between any one of your customers and any other person, your reputation can be quickly enhanced, or quickly destroyed.

Success or failure…a mere 4 degrees of separation.


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