Viral Marketing – Traction Channel #1

Viral Marketing is one of the nineteen traction channels. In the context of startups, going viral means that every user you acquire brings in at least one other user:  that the new user then invites another user, and so on.  It has been the driving force behind the explosive growth of consumer startups like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. Definition:  Viral Marketing (viral advertising, or marketing buzz) marketing technique that use pre-existing social networking services and other technologies to try to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes.  What does a virus have to do with marketing? Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, to millions. Delivery process: The Viral Loop is what Traction book calls it.  A 3-step process:

  1. A user is exposed to your product.  This can happen by word of mouth or in network effects by the internet and mobile networks.  Viral advertising is personal and, while coming from an identified sponsor, it does not mean businesses pay for its distribution.  Most of the well-known viral ads circulating online are ads paid by a sponsor company, launched either on their own platform (company webpage or social media profile) or on social media websites, such as YouTube, Facebook and App Stores.
  2. That user tells a set of potential users about your product.  Consumers receive the page link from a social media network or copy the entire ad from a website and pass it along through e-mail or posting it on a blog, webpage or social media profile.  Dropbox, Instagram and Pinterest are great examples of fast viral marketing.
  3. These potential users are exposed to your product and become users themselves.
Goal of Viral Marketing:  According to marketing professors Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein, to make viral marketing work, three basic criteria must be met, i.e., giving the right message to the right messengers in the right environment. Successful viral strategy involves constant testing, measurement and trying new things.  Weinberg and Mares encourage you to map out every aspect of your viral loop. Draw a map of the entire process and try to cut out unnecessary  steps (extra sign up pages, fill outs) Distribution Mechanisms for Viral Marketing:  Video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brand able software, images, text messages, email messages, or web pages are all used. The most commonly utilized transmission vehicles for viral messages include:  pass-along based, incentive based, trendy based, and undercover based. However, the creative nature of viral marketing enables an “endless amount of potential forms and vehicles the messages can utilize for transmission” including mobile devices. Experiment with new sites like Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest, etc.  Viral target marketing is based on three important principles:
  • Social profile gathering
  • Proximity market analysis
  • Real-time key word density analysis
By applying these three important disciplines to an advertising model, a VMS company is able to match a client with their targeted customers at a cost effective advantage. Viral Math is the term Weinberg and Mares use in Traction.  This helps you quickly identify how close you are to getting traction though viral marketing and what areas to focus on.  The two key factors that drive viral growth are:
  • Viral coefficient (K) is the number of additional users you can get for each user you bring in.  Formula-K=i*conversion percentage (i* is the number of invites sent per user) (conversion percentage is the percentage of users who sign up after receiving an invitation.)  For example, if your users send out an average of 4 invites and 2 of those people usually convert to new users, your viral coefficient would be:K=4*(2/4)=2  Any viral coefficient about 1 will result exponential growth.
  • Viral cycle time- is the measure of how long it takes a user to go through your viral loop. This explains the explosive growth of a company like YouTube, whose cycle times can occur in a matter of minutes-simeon sees a video, clicks, copies and sends it to friends. VIRAL!!
Viral Strategy-To pursue this traction channel effectively you need to measure these two factors.  Traction suggests running as many A/B tests as you can. Best practice suggests focusing for weeks at a time on one major area(say your signup conversion rate).  After improving your metrics (math) on that area move to another strategic area.  It could take a couple months to implement and optimize a new viral channel. Specific times to test and optimize:  Button vs. text links, location of your call to actions, size, color and contrast of your action buttons, headlines, testimonials to name a few. From 5 Key Viral Marketing Tactics Proven to Work on Jeff Bullas’s Blog:
  1. Think outside of traditional marketing To advertise their new LED TVs, Samsung strapped some LED lights onto sheep and ‘created’ works of art. The jump from LED TVs to LED sheep is a big one, you have to make that jump to get to the 19 million views of this video.
  2. Bring your marketing into the real world A large number of successful viral marketing campaigns involve real people reacting to imagined situations. Think about TNT’s ‘Drama Button’ campaign. It brought the drama of an intense show onto the streets of Belgium, shocking the real people on the streets. People loved it because they could see themselves in those reactions.  (See Top Viral Marketing Campaign link below)
  3. Take your products to extremes Say you sell a boring product that has been seen countless times in homes and on TVs doing its job, like blenders. BlendTec was a company in this situation. Their Will it Blend campaign saw them use their blenders on nearly every Apple product, copies of the latest popular video game, paintballs, and DVDs of Justin Bieber. If you can’t see how that type of content can spread rapidly, you’re in the wrong business.
  4. Reward your customers with your product  Key is finding a way to feel that your customer is getting a deal or extra by sharing your product with someone else.                                               
  5. Team up with unlikely partners The TV show The Walking Dead teamed up with UC Irvine to create an open online course on what a zombie apocalypse would be like. Zombie lovers ate it up like free brains. Both the show and the university benefitted
Besides use, today’s consumers want to feel like they’re part of your product. This can be as simple as rewarding them with your product for an action, or including them vicariously through visual content that incorporate people just like them. Resources ]]>