Traction channel – viral marketing

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This blog article is based on the 3 Things This Week’s edition dated 3rd May 2018. The theme of this edition is “viral marketing”, one of the most important and sought-after – dream channel for startups!

Viral marketing is the process of getting your existing users to refer others to your product. In the context of startups, going viral means that every user you acquire brings in at least one other user: that new user then invites another user, and so on. This creates true exponential growth. Though difficult to sustain, it’s been the driving force behind the explosive growth of consumer startups like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. As great as your product may be, true viral growth is unlikely. However, this channel is so powerful that it may still be worthwhile creating referral programs where your users can refer others to your product.

There are different kinds of vitality and ways to go about using them:

  • The oldest form of vitality occurs when your product is so remarkable that people naturally tell others about it – pure word of mouth. Word of mouth drove Facebook’s early growth among college students before they started building in more explicit viral hooks (email invites, adding your friends via address books, etc.). Word of mouth also causes many movies, books, diets and TV shows to take off.
  • Inherent vitality occurs when you can only get value from a product by inviting other users. Skype and apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp also fall into this category. This type of virility comes with the advantage of “network effects,” where the value of the network increases as more people get on it.
  • Other products grow by encouraging collaboration. In this case, the product is still valuable on its own but becomes more so as you invite others. Google Docs is useful alone, but it is far more valuable when used collaboratively.
  • Another common case is to embed vitality into communications from the product. Hotmail put a “Get a free email account with Hotmail. Sign up now.” as a default signature and Apple similarly appends “sent from my iPhone.” As a result, every message sent spreads the word about the product.
  • Products can also incentivize their users to move through their viral loops and tell others about the product. Dropbox gives you more space if you get friends to sign up. AirBnB, Uber, PayPal, and Gilt give you account credits for referring the product to friends.
  • Companies like reddit and YouTube have grown virally by using embedded buttons and widgets. On each video page, YouTube provides the code snippet necessary to embed a video on any website.
  • Another type of viral loop leverages social networks to attract new users to a product. In this case, a user’s activities are broadcast to their social connections; often more than once. If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, we’re sure you’ve seen your friends liking articles on other sites, playing songs on Spotify, or pinning content on Pinterest.

Here are this week’s 3 things on viral marketing:

Thing #1: Top 3 Viral Marketing Campaigns to Take Inspiration From

Very few people know what goes into making a viral marketing campaign successful until it starts to spread. There are, however, some brands, who have understood what makes the audience tick. In fact, there are some consistent elements in such campaigns, which brands can follow. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and have a look at the top three examples of viral marketing campaigns over the past few years. There is a lot you can potentially learn from them as they exactly know how to resonate with the target audiences.

Thing #2: How to build a referral program inspired by Dropbox

Your existing user base is probably one of the most powerful user acquisition channels. People always tend to listen to recommendations from friends that’s why word of mouth is so powerful. The point is to get your users to talk to their friends about your product. In other words, create a viral loop. Users usually need a small push to start telling their friends about how great your service is. That’s why it’s 100% important to incentivize your users to invite their friends. This is what Dropbox did and boosted its viral growth – Dropbox went from 100,000 to 4,000,000 users in 15 months. Along with Dropbox, many more companies started a referral like this. Airbnb, Instacart, Lyft, Teespring, Uber and many more.  Read this article to know how you can build your own Dropbox-style referral campaign.

Thing # 3:  Why Niantic didn’t need marketing to make Pokémon Go viral   

‘Pokémon Go’ – a humble app game with a simple idea behind it, that had taken the world by storm through viral marketing. It seems at first that its instant success is credited solely to 90’s nostalgia, and rapid word-of-mouth spread, so what can brands who don’t already have a strong presence in pop culture learn from Pokémon Go’s marketing success? The company behind Pokémon Go, Niantic, has done very little to promote the game since it launched. Beyond a handful of release notifications from the official Pokémon Go Twitter account, no TV commercials have been commissioned and in-app advertising is minimal. Niantic has instead relied on word-of-mouth to promote its take on Pokémon, particularly in the form of unofficial viral pictures, videos and social media posts shared online (internet memes) that reference or parody the game. This user-generated content ensures the title is on the lips of the masses, even if many of them haven’t even played it yet.  Read on to get more stories on Pokémon’s viral marketing campaign.

I would be happy to know how you have used this traction channel for your business and if you have some lessons to share with fellow entrepreneurs.





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