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What Does Ideavirus Mean?

An ideavirus is an idea that spreads through various networks like the Internet and grows rapidly within a target population. It usually comes from a single person. The term ideavirus was coined by marketer Seth Godin in his book, "Unleashing the Ideavirus." Like a virus, an ideavirus infects and changes every individual it touches, even in just a very small way. The outcome of this infection may not be noticeable, or it can lead to the creation of new products or companies. With each person influenced, the idea is interpreted, modified and often improved before it is passed on.


Viral marketing is based on an ideavirus about a product or service. Technology has made spreading an ideavirus much faster and more powerful than in the past.

Techopedia Explains Ideavirus

Spreading an ideavirus effectively is not an exact science, but what’s clear is that it does involve creating ideas in connection with the product and then letting those ideas spread in a less intrusive and more creative way than more traditional types of advertising/marketing. The concept, according to Godin, is to spread the idea and let the audience embrace and support it (or not). The idea is typically unleashed to the public through the Internet using different viral marketing techniques. When this idea reaches the population, its desired effect should be made to influence and change them.

An ideavirus is conceived and made possible through eight variables:

  • Hive: People live in groups that have many things in common. Using this as an advantage, once an idea infects one member, the member proceeds to inform the others of this idea. The bigger the group, the better.
  • Vector: The first target of the idea may be a small group, but that slowly escalates to a larger group. The vector controls the hives through which the ideas flow.
  • Smoothness: The goal is to make the idea or product so enticing that once the audience is exposed to it, they are immediately hooked to it.
  • Amplifier: Passing the idea from one person to the next through word-of-mouth is not the most effective way of spreading it. Somehow, the idea’s positive aspects should be amplified.
  • Velocity: How the idea spreads from one hive to another is determined based on how quickly the idea spreads. If it’s too slow, this may give time for a competitor to move in.
  • Sneezers: These are those people who are most likely to infect others with the virus. They are considered to be the heart of the system and thus a vital factor in ensuring the success of the idea.
  • Medium: The medium can be anything from phrases to video clips and pictures used to get an audience’s attention.
  • Persistence: Careful planning is often required to ensure that an idea truly sticks.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.