Companies investing in viral internet marketing have been advised to target social networkers with smaller lists of friends instead of those with large numbers of online contacts.

According to researchers from the University of California, the average influential power of a social networker falls as the number of friends they have increases.

Web advertisers should keep this in mind when developing viral marketing strategies, the team points out.

"Our model may serve as a methodology to identify customers who play an important role during the diffusion of the new product or service," said lead researcher Zsolt Katona.

The study concludes that people belonging to a smaller network of friends are more likely to know one another and may therefore be more relevant for word of mouth advertising.

Research carried out recently by the Internet Advertising Bureau reveals that banners are the preferred form of advertising when it comes to internet marketing on social networks, followed by sponsored gifts.

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