in Projects, Programming, Technology

7 Viral marketing lessons

Because I’m a developer who dreams of launching a business from his basement with zero marketing, I’ve come to see everything (web business idea or feature) through a viral lens. My experiments with Twibes, Toy Chest, Zuckerbucks and many other less successful projects taught me a few hard lessons in viral marketing. Oh, and I lied – there are more than 7 lessons and tips here.

I’ve been contracting at BigDoor for a few months now. We’re working on a cool new gamification platform that I think will be super viral. This post is an excerpt from a document I sent around internally.

  • It’s OK to require invites (or force tweets) if the end user is experiencing intrinsic value (eg. Twibes tweet to join, ToyChest invite to send gift).
  • Sharing messages are critical, hard to template, and should be one of the first things designed.
  • The viral surface area of the app is all the channels in which your messages are going to appear. A/B testing the share messages could make or break your viral coefficient.
  • Viral coefficient is the mean number of new customers an existing customer generates. If 10 people refer 5 new people, coefficient is 0.5. If coefficient > 1 … you’ve got “Free money!”
  • The more you make an interaction about the human players and less about content, the more viral it becomes (eg. Top Friends, Send Hotness,  Facebook photos).
  • Facebook Likes are not viral (enough) they are more of an opt-in than a broadcast.
  • Tweets are more viral than likes, but not everyone’s on Twitter.
  • Facebook invites are not as viral as they once were, but are probably better than likes.
  • Email is still a great channel.
  • Tweets,  Invites, and Likes are a currency. You can charge for content  in that currency.
  • If users take ownership of what they’re promoting (a fan group, their blog) – they will promote much harder, because they are promoting themselves (aka “Ning double viral loop”).
  • Even virtual gifts have perceived value, and are cause for sharing.
  • In calls to action, ego (what are they saying about me?), humor, obligation, and sex are huge.
  • Draw your viral loops and funnels, and estimate the attrition at each stage.

Previous posts on viral app design:

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  1. Giving more is a nice trick (talking about the 7 lessons)

    The thing is that there are no rules or lessons that work in absolutely every industry. Trying to find a strategy that works for your specific industry is an almost impossible task

  2. Thanks Adam, this has given me a lot of food for thought. Particularly the ‘taking ownership > self promotion’ and the idea of calculating the viral loop and funnel concepts. The last concept in particular is something I hadn’t considered and will be incorporating in my project.
    I’ll also be looking at the relative values of like/facebook like/email/tweeting. Now, to read all your other blog entries!

  3. I’d like to talk to you about what it means to lay the groundwork for a viral campaign. It seems to me there are some fundamental online optimization techniques that can keep any marketing effort from getting off the ground if they are not in place, whether it’s a app of some kind, an event you want to promote, a video, whatever. Startups often fail to do basic stuff like optimize their website for search engines and set up basic Google Analytics so that they can track – and learn from – successes and failures.

  4. Viral marketing is difficult to master; but easy to define. It is something that spreads through word of mouth almost infectiously like a virus where if one person sees it, instantly that person transfers it to someone else.