As a Web business entrepreneur, you can apply Web Business Engineering (WBE) to discover innovative ways of using the Web to help your online business. Let's take a look at a marketing application of WBE. Suppose that you aren't getting enough traffic to your Web site. Using Web Business Engineering, I developed a technique known as memetic marketing to drive large volumes of traffic to my Web sites. With memetic marketing, instead of relying on search engines or expensive advertising budgets, you use "memetics" to help your users attract their friends and other acquaintances to your Web site. You can see examples of memetics at my "Dating Expert" Web site as well as my "Yes No Maybe" Web site.
In the following article, I demonstrate how I used Web Business Engineering to come up with the idea behind memetic marketing. To foreshadow, I used WBE to analyze how information spreads offline and generalized the process to spreading information online. But first, you need to understand what a meme is. A meme is a pattern of information that spreads from person to person—and often from generation to generation—in a culture. The meme is the information analog of a gene. But whereas bodies contain and spread genes, minds contain and spread memes. The classic examples of memes are religion and science, but urban legends, catchy tunes, a good joke, and even words such as dilemna (it's spelled dilemma) also qualify. The interested reader should refer to Richard Dawkins' seminal book The Selfish Gene for a detailed explanation of memes. My use of the term and concept may differ slightly from his, but the basic idea is essentially the same.
Suppose that you (U) go to a party, and someone (J) tells you a good joke. The next day, you tell that joke to all your coworkers. Later that week, when you get together with your friends for a game of cards, you tell them the joke. Sometime during the month, when members of your family call—as family members typically do—you tell them the joke. You can probably guess what happens next: Your coworkers, friends, and family members (Fi) tell the same joke to their coworkers, friends, and family members, who then tell their coworkers, friends, and family members, and so on. This situation is depicted in Figure 1.
How a joke spreads, without the help of online technologies
Of course, nowadays, besides telling jokes in person and over the phone, we have technologies such as e-mail to help tell jokes; I'm sure you've all experienced the thrill of receiving e-mail from a friend (F) who just discovered how to use e-mail distribution lists and then forwards every joke that he or she comes across (see Figure 2). You may even be guilty yourself of forwarding jokes in this manner!
Using email to spread a joke
This is basically the same diagram as the nontechnology case—some of the labels have been changed to protect the innocent—but with an additional means (email) of spreading the joke. This is a simple substitution of online media (email) for offline ones. It turns out that we can do even better, but first we need to understand why the joke spreads.