Pass-Along or pass-along email, refers to a viral email that is sent rapidly from person to person. These viral messages gain momentum through a word-of-mouth method, gaining traction as one recipient forwards the message to their contact list much like a chain letter. Pass-along messages are an example of the viral phenomenon, which refers to an objects’ ability to replicate themselves or to convert other objects into copies of themselves once exposed to the original object. Pass-alongs quickly replicate, pending their value to the recipient, and are often used in viral marketing efforts attempting to grow their customer-base. These messages, however, can also be instrumental in growing media outside of email marketing campaigns including the creation and transfer of internet memes.

The idea behind viral emails are simple, and when leveraged properly by email marketers can be very efficient. First, the sender creates a message meant to be distributed over a large population; often these messages are humorous or political, but marketers may be able to propagate messages that offer a large value to customers. Once an email user — a list member, for marketers — receives the message, they evaluate the messages value (whether humor or otherwise) and its potential value to their personal contact list. Users quickly forward successful messages to their contact list, where new recipients begin the same process.

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