Viral Hero Cheat Sheet - Marketing Growth Success

Congratulations! You’ve finally reached the end of our step-by-step adventure into viral marketing.

It’s been a long and arduous journey so far. And while there’s still a long way to go, none of what you’ve learned up to this point will do you ANY good if you don’t remember to put it into practice.

To help make this easier, here’s a viral marketing cheat sheet that summarizes all the content you’ve consumed so far:

  1. Viral marketing is the phenomenon that occurs when a user of a product “exposes” others they encounter to that product for the first time, thereby “infecting” a percentage of those who have been exposed and making them users as well. (See: Chapter 1)
  2. Viral engineering is the act of strategically building a product to use virality as a significant growth lever. (See: Chapter 2)
  3. You should never compromise your user experience for the sake of virality, and you should never compromise your virality for your user experience. The two should never be at odds with each other, and should instead work together as one cohesive unit. (See: Chapter 3)
  4. Inherent viral marketing is a viral engine in which there is NO value to be had in using a product unless you are using it with others. A company that used this engine well was Skype. (See: Chapter 4)
  5.  Viral communication marketing is a viral engine in which users use the product to communicate with non-users, and by doing so expose the product to those non-users. A company that used this engine well was Hotmail. (See: Chapter 5)
  6. Viral collaboration marketing is a viral engine in which users work together through the use of a product to achieve a common goal. A company that used this engine well was Dropbox. (See: Chapter 6)
  7. Viral incentive marketing is a viral engine in which users unlock even more value from a product by inviting others to use the product as well – positioned as a “payment” of sorts. A company that used this engine well was PayPal. (See: Chapter 7)
  8. Embeddable viral marketing is a viral engine in which users embed a product to their own product to add value to their users, and by doing so expose the embedded product to their users. A company that used this engine well was YouTube. (See: Chapter 8)
  9. Viral signature marketing is a viral engine in which users route the users of their own product to a completely different product as an augmentation of their own service, thereby exposing their users to that product as a result. A company that used this engine well was Zendesk. (See: Chapter 9)
  10. Open viral marketing is a viral engine in which users distribute their products through another product – often a marketplace – driving their own users there, and by doing so expose those users to the marketplace. A company that used this engine well was Apple. (See: Chapter 10)
  11. Transactional viral marketing is a viral engine in which users share achievements or value they saw through use of a product with others – often on social media – exposing their audience to that product as a vessel for that value. A company that used this engine well was MapMyRun. (See: Chapter 11)
  12. Viral credibility marketing is a unique viral engine in which the use of a product adds to the credibility of the user. Likewise, the fact that the user uses the product adds to the credibility of the product. A company that used this engine well was RED. (See: Chapter 12)
  13. Online viral word of mouth marketing is what most assume all of viral marketing to be. It results when high-arousal emotions are strategically triggered in users by companies to spark and encourage “sharing” – often through content creation. A company that used this engine well was BuzzFeed. (See: Chapter 13)
  14. Offline viral word of mouth marketing is the most common viral engine. By using it products attempt to create unique, memorable, and conversation-worthy experiences for users, strategically spreading through offline interactions between users. A company that used this engine well was Cards Against Humanity. (See: Chapter 14)
  15. Viral satisfaction marketing is a “cherry on top” viral engine in which companies attempt to create over-the-top best-in-class touch points with their users – usually via support interactions – which are so good, they drive online and offline recommendations from users. A company that used this engine well was Zappos. (See: Chapter 15)
  16. The Fogg Behavioral Model, or Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger, is a great rule of thumb to spark both the sending and acceptance of invites. Users must have a clear and obvious motivation to take action, you must give them a simple and frictionless path to doing so, and you must create some sort of signal that tells them that now is the time do make it happen. (See: Chapter 22)
  17. Conversion rate optimization is NOT just used in your sales funnel. The exact same tactics and strategies can and should be applied to all steps within your viral loop to help engineer your product for virality. (See: Chapter 17)
  18. The foundation of all growth is value. There are two forms of value you must pay close attention to. Core value is what users truly want when they purchase, and it’s what makes them stick around and purchase more often over time. Viral value is similar, but rather than purchasing, it’s what drives invite behavior. It’s what makes users invite others, follow up on those invites, and proactively spread your product throughout in their network. (See: Chapter 18)
  19. Your viral loop can be defined as every step in your user journey from awareness to invite action. One full loop is achieved when all steps are completed. When new users are exposed to the product – whether through invites or non-viral methods like advertising – a new loop begins. (See: Chapter 19)
  20. Your viral carrier is the method by which invites are sent. If your carrier is not the most obvious, intuitive, and logical way of sending invites, users will not complete viral loops as frequently. (See: Chapter 20)
  21. Your viral branching factor is the average number of invites a user sends for every individual invite action they take, or how many others they touch during a single viral loop. If one invite action is a trunk of the tree, and it takes a unique branch on that tree to reach out and touch each of their friends, your branching factor is the average number of branches on each tree you plant. (See: Chapter 21)
  22. Your product’s “hook point” can be defined as the “aha” moment for the user, after which they are far more likely to be retained. Your viral hook point is a similar “aha” moment, but instead focuses on the moment when your user realizes your viral value is something they want. (See: Chapter 22)
  23. A viral invite is the actual act of sending an individual invite out to a friend to expose a product or service to them after that user has reached a viral hook point. This moment signifies the end of a viral loop(See: Chapter 23)
  24. Your viral message is the default message you prompt users to send as a viral invite. While some loops allow for customization, others are curated by the company and cannot be changed. (See: Chapter 24)
  25. Your viral media is typically a piece of content that serves as a real use case or demo of a product others are being exposed to by a user. An example of viral media is a video being shared via YouTube. While many assume that the video is what is spreading virally, it is actually YouTube itself experiencing viral growth. The video is simply the media allowing the company to spread its player to prospects or potentially dormant users they can reactivate. (See: Chapter 25)
  26. Viral conversion is the act of acceptance on an invite that has been sent. In other words, if User A sends an invite to User B, the viral conversion does not take place unless User B actually accepts that invite and signs up as a Lead to seek more information. (See: Chapter 26)
  27. Your viral marketing funnel is a more familiar way of visualizing your viral loop. It represented your viral loop in a linear fashion, similar to a sales funnel. Visualizing your viral loop in this way can make it easier to adopt third party tools for optimization reasons. (See: Chapter 27)
  28. Your viral factor, commonly referred to just as “K“, is a measure of potential viral magnitude. While it is an essential viral metric, it cannot project viral growth over time by itself as it does not factor time into its calculation. (See: Chapter 28)
  29. Your viral amplification factor, often referred to as “A“, is a more common and practical KPI in comparison to K. It indicates the total users you can expect to acquire for every one user you acquire from non-viral means after viral marketing does it’s job. Ninety-nine percent of companies should use A instead of K as it will be far more practical. (See: Chapter 29)
  30. Viral cycle time is the granddaddy of all viral metrics. It serves as the exponent in the viral growth projection equation. The optimization of this metric will drive far more growth than the optimization of any other viral KPI. (See: Chapter 30)
  31. Retention is the foundation of all growth – viral or otherwise. No matter how quickly you fill your “bucket,” the amount of water it holds will not increase if the holes in your bucket leak as much or more water than you’re pouring in. (See: Chapter 65)
  32. All acquisition methods are network-dependent – meaning your addressable market is not infinite, and will often change rapidly due to factors both in and out of your control. Do not assume the growth rate you have today can always be increased through a simple marketing spend, or will even remain available at its current rate if you maintain the budget you currently have now. (See: Chapter 69)
  33. Without continually addressing your churn rate, you WILL reach a point where your growth rate equals your churn rate. This is called your carrying capacity, and is the moment at which your growth will level off. (See: Chapter 59)
  34. If you neglect retention efforts and instead hit your carrying capacity, then begin to experience “network saturation” (the reduction of availability of new leads into your funnel), you will experience negative growth. This can be fatal for your company. (See: Chapter 62)
  35. Just like there is a moment in your user journey called a hook point where, if reached, users will retain forever, there is also a moment in the same journey called user death. If reached, this is the point when users will leave and never return. It is your job as a growth engineer to identify both moments, then build your product to encourage the first while reducing the second. (See: Chapter 66)
  36. Viral growth – no matter how profound – is next to worthless without the ability to connect virality to profitability. At the end of the day, you’re running a business – and your viral loop is simply a tool with which you can grow that business faster and more cost-effectively. (See: Chapter 67)

Be sure to bookmark this viral marketing cheat sheet. That way you can check in every few months to ensure you’ve thought through everything you’re doing to build and grow your business more effectively.

A Final Message


Thanks for taking this journey with me. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of viral marketing as a whole.

A lot of the time viral marketing is misunderstood as just social sharing, or the newest ridiculous video on Youtube. I sincerely hope that Viral Hero was able to set the record straight for you, and guide you on a path towards success.

Of course this isn’t the end of our your adventure; it’s just the beginning. As you move forward, applying what you’ve learned here, be sure to come back often to brush up on your skills, say hello, and see what latest hijinks Viral Panda and Red have gotten themselves into.

At anytime, if you have any questions, want the hottest new app’s viral loop dissected, or would like to see a new chapter on a concept you’re having trouble with, hit me up on Twitter or use this contact form.

Until then, good luck and viralspeed.


Travis Steffen
Viral Buttons by UP