GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

April 7, 2006

We’ve seen a lot of recent examples of consumer web services and content which have taken off with viral adoption. While my perspective is that people over-use the term “viral”, it’s obvious that success cases are tremendous.

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about what truly makes an online service/service viral, and I’ve come to a (very preliminary) conclusion that it rests on three variables:

1. How inherently sharable it is. If people like what they see or do, they’re going to want to communicate about it to others.

2. How easily sharable it is. I’ve written before that friction is multiplicative – it’s important to reduce friction before and after desire actions because conversation rates in a several step process multiply across the entire sequence as a whole. Therefore, the simpler it is to share a content or service (which includes the messaging about the steps, as well as the difficulty of the steps themselves), the better.

3. How integrated the sharing is into the content or the service. The more deeply imbedded the act of referring is into the product the product or service itself, the more natural is becomes to share it, as the user spreads recommendations simply by using the service or content itself. (I’ve talked more about this notion here).

Perhaps these three components themselves are multiplicative? Dare I suggest a theoretical equation to summarize/articulate?

Viral adoption = (how inherently sharable x how easily sharable) x (integration of sharing into content/service)

My ideas about these issues were brought to mind today when I read a great piece from Marketing Sherpa, “Viral Marketing Hall of Fame 2006: Top 12 Campaigns You Should Swipe Ideas From.” It lists and then goes into great detail about a dozen highly successful recent viral campaigns and the lessons to be learned from them. While some of the recommendations are obvious (“blogs are now the seed campaign of choice”), there are some very insightful remarks about presentation of, patience with, and predictions about online viral marketing. Anyone with a hand in or an interest in marketing online services with a viral component should definitely read the entire piece.

  • Wille Faler

    Internet traffic is an interesting, fickle thing: a site can linger in relative obscurity forever, until one day it just hits warp-overdrive due to viral spreading.I think the biggest mistake people make when it comes to internet-ideas are that they assume that “if you build it, they will come”:The truth is more like “If you build it, noone will know about it, unless you have bags of marketing money, a good PR-machine or just get immensely lucky with viral spreading [according to your three principles]”.

    One thing I have often wondered about is, what is the “critical mass”, at which word of mouth really takes of, assuming a service is truly useful?

  • umx

    summing up people like toys, ease and hype they need to be part of something and if this something is coined as “cool” trey all will come to pray and i go to play my favourite Hold’em games

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