80/20 Rule Viral Marketing Growth

When newbie growth engineers start building their viral loops, they often mistakenly set their primary KPI as something like “total users acquired” or “total unique visitors.” They believe these KPIs will be indicative of the overall growth and health of their company. They’d be wrong.

In these cases, it’s important to remember the Pareto principle (also called the 80/20 rule).

This rule states that 80% of results come from 20% of causes. If applied to virality, we can infer that 80% of your business value comes from 20% of your users.

80/20 Viral Marketing: Not All Growth is Created Equally


It’s more valuable to define a primary KPI as something like:

  • Total ideal users acquired
  • Total unique customers
  • Total retained users after 30 days
  • Total profitable users

These metrics imply that you’re not only acquiring new users for your product, but you’re measuring the acquisition of users who will actually drive business value and profitability.

This is the essence of 80/20 viral marketing.

When you’ve identified the top 20% of users or customers driving 80% of your results, you’ll need to dissect what it is about those users that makes them so valuable. More specifically you will need to search for patterns, find out how they’re alike, and determine the cause of those patterns to figure out why users behave the way they do.

Once you have this information, your non-viral acquisition efforts will be far more powerful. You will now be able to better craft the context and language driving those users into your viral loop, guiding them towards inviting specific friends who fit the same pattern.

An example of this would be launching a restaurant reservations app in the App Store, and focusing first on a certain local market (say, Chicago). While your app is downloadable for users nationwide, there is very little value for users outside of Chicago just yet.

It’s obvious that your non-viral marketing efforts will be targeted to users within Chicago who frequently visit restaurants requiring reservations. However, what may NOT be as obvious is the language of your viral loop.

Encouraging Correct Targeting for Virality


In the situation above, rather than simply asking users to invite friends after they see both the core and viral value your application may offer, you’ll be far better off doing the following:

  1. Build your viral loop in such a way that invites are rarely sent to users who are not ideal or who are out of market. In the context of the above example, you might try leading users to invite those they plan to dine with so either one of them may change the reservation if needed.
  2. Craft the language of your invite calls to action to encourage more specificity. For example, rather than saying something like, “Invite a friend, and get a $5 discount off your next meal for each one who signs up.” You might write, “Got dining buddies in Chicago? Get a $5 discount off a meal for each Chicago-based friend you invite who signs up!” This will ensure your users are directed to invite in-market friends rather than just somebody random in their address book.

If your viral acquisition strategies aren’t carefully architected to bring you users who actually drive value for your business (i.e. 80/20 viral marketing), the growth you get may not be the growth you want, or need, to achieve success as an organization.

What’s Next



You’ve reached the end of your epic journey towards viral awesomeness.

I now cape thee a Viral Hero!

What’s that? You don’t feel any different? That’s not surprising. You can’t expect virality to happen just by sitting there reading this site. You’ve now got to get up off that chair (or better yet fly off it!) and start putting what you’ve learned into practice. But don’t worry, you don’t have to go it alone.

To help, I’ve compiled a list of all the key things you need to remember to ensure you’re doing everything right in building, and growing, your business more effectively.

Consider this your own personal Viral Hero Cheat Sheet to Continued Awesomeness.


What Are The Most Important Things to Remember About Viral Marketing?

No one expects you to remember ever little detail that we’ve covered over the past 71 chapters. But there are some very important key points you should always carry with you on the road to viral success. Join me in our very last chapter to find out what they are.

Travis Steffen
Viral Buttons by UP