Inherent Viral Marketing: All Hail the King!Few things spread faster than a well designed, value-adding viral site or app – especially when its marketing campaign adds to the user experience. Growth, at least for a little while, can be hyperbolic. Which means awesome things for your bottom line. So everyone should attempt to use inherent viral marketing to grow… right? Wrong. Not every site, app or product is inherently viral. In fact, very few are. This isn’t necessarily because you screwed up, developed poorly, or people don’t like what you’re providing. In fact, you may have a perfectly architected website with a loyal, fast-growing audience that loves what you do, and STILL not have an inherently viral site. In a nutshell, inherent viral marketing is a form of viral marketing where people get ZERO value from your site, app or product unless others are using it as well.
Who’s Doing it Right: Skype and WhatsAppThe Shangri La of viral marketing is inherent viral marketing. If a product or service solves a user’s problem BECAUSE others are using it as well, you win. Few have been able to ascend to these lofty heights and return to tell the tale. But those that have often come out with billions to show for it. Let’s use the popular VOIP and messaging app Skype as an example:
- What value do you get out of Skype when you first download it but have no contacts? None. Skype does absolutely nothing for you at this point.
- The moment you send a contact request to somebody and it’s accepted, you unlock a TON of the value Skype has to offer. You can send instant messages, place calls domestically or internationally for free, have video calls, share screens, and more.
- But wait… what happens when you invite a second person? You then magically unlock conference call features allowing you to get MORE than two people on a call from anywhere for free.
- The more friends you add to Skype, the more value you’ll get from it, and the more frequently you’ll use it.
Create an Inherent Viral Marketing EngineOkay, so now you are all set to be a billionaire. All that’s left is to implement inherent viral marketing and start watching the checks roll in. Or so we’d hope. The truth is succeeding with inherent viral marketing is very difficult. (No one said being king was easy.) As products or services start to reach ubiquity, users essentially have no choice but to stay and be active since they will actually LOSE value by leaving. That’s the genius behind inherent viral marketing. It is NOT just comprised of making something cool and hoping others will pass it on, but rather makes the act of inviting others absolutely essential to unlocking the value of the product.
Implement Before You StartUnfortunately, if you’ve already built a website or app it’s most likely too late to create inherent virality. That is unless you infused some sort of communication tool or component that only has value when used with others. In which case you’ve accidentally already created an inherently viral product. Well done. If that’s not you, don’t worry. You’re still off to a great start. Learning as much as you can about inherent viral marketing will provide a strong understanding of viral growth in general. And help you grow much larger as a result. In addition, it may give you some ideas for how to better architect future products from Day 1. Either way you can use this knowledge towards establishing other forms of viral marketing within your company. Just know that the growth potential will be lessened in comparison.
The Hard Part of Inherent Viral MarketingOnce you get the ball rolling with an inherently viral product, growth is easy. However, getting the ball rolling is the hard part. Remember when I mentioned how valuable an inherently viral product becomes as it approaches ubiquity? The exact opposite is true early on. There is often VERY low value for the first users of inherently viral products. It’s akin to entering an empty room. No one likes to be the first person to a party. However, as more people join, social proof increases drastically, and signups snowball. If you haven’t heard of Metcalfe’s Law, it essentially states that the value of any network is equivalent to the squared number of users using the network. While I can’t speak to the accuracy of the formula, the theory is sound, and applies to inherently viral products in the same way. These types of products are incredibly valuable at scale, but incredibly worthless early on. In other words, the early days of using inherent viral marketing will be the toughest ones you’ll face. But as T. Jefferson liked to say, with great risk comes great reward.
How to Succeed Early OnThere are a few things a company can do to offset the growing pains of inherent viral marketing, such as:
- Niche Targeting
- Brute Force
- Getting Lucky
What’s Next?Now that we’ve met the king of viral marketing campaigns, let’s meet the rest of the court. The second type of viral marketing is called viral communication marketing – and we’ll dig more deeply into it in the next chapter.
What Do Apple, MailChimp and Hootsuite Have in Common?
All three were inspired by the viral communication marketing success of one company, and grew hugely successful as a result. Want to know who this legendary viral sensation was? I’ll tell you in the next chapter.
What did you think of this post?
- Do you know of any other sites or apps that are inherently viral?
- What was the last inherently viral site you used to invite more than one friend to?
- If you could see Viral Panda playing any sport, what would it be?
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