Viral Marketing Funnel

Remember the end of the movie The Matrix where Neo finally embraces his true gift and is able to see the world around him as binary code rather than people and things?


You’re not there yet.

But after this chapter, you’ll be a whole lot closer to Keanu Reeves-esque levels of “Whoa.”

(Side Note: If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about or you’re not a fan of the first movie in The Matrix series, we can’t be friends. Also, you probably won’t get some of my hilarious jokes in this post. But trust me, they are very hilarious.)

Seeing the Viral Matrix


As part of our guide on How to Create Your Viral Engine in 15 Steps, we have dissected the basic structure and critical points of most standard viral loops. (In case you’re wondering, we’re currently on the Step #12.)

That said, KNOWING what those steps are can only get you so far. Or as Morpheus would say:

“There’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.”

Theory is great, but putting theory into practice involves creating a practical method for implementation that can be sustained over time.

To do this, you’ll likely have to see a visualization of your viral loop complete with data and context.

Here’s how I’d recommend doing this (other than by swallowing a red pill):

  1. Use a tool like LucidChart to diagram each step of YOUR viral loop using boxes.
  2. If you’ve already got metrics from your own site, drop them in next to each corresponding box. Include things like the time it takes to get to each step, the conversion rate on that step, and even a small screenshot of that step.
  3. On an accompanying spreadsheet, run a few scenarios. Choose 1-2 steps in your loop, and increase them marginally. Notice how your overall virality increases.
  4. Carefully examine your loop as it stands and try to diagnose the bottlenecks, as well as the weakest steps. Where can your biggest improvements happen, and how much improvement can you realistically expect?
  5. Document everything, but make it short and digestible. Each page is a barrier that you’re asking users to jump over. These metrics should ONLY show how much of a barrier each step is so you can know what to focus on improving. Any more and it’s overkill.

Drawing the Line in the Sand


You obviously want to make each metric in your viral loop as awesome as possible. But how awesome is “awesome enough”?

This is never an easy question to answer. After all, if you’re just getting your data for the first time, you likely have nothing to compare it to. So do your research. In other words, don’t think you are, know you are.

For example, let’s say your viral carrier is SMS (meaning users send out invites via text).

You might not be familiar with the average open rate of an SMS text message, but after doing a little research you’ll find that this number is around 36%. Is this specific to your app or your industry? No. But it will give you some sort of a benchmark to set more accurate expectations.

You can do this type of research throughout your funnel. For the most part, you should be able to find general benchmarks of what you can expect. If you’re severely undershooting these, you’ll likely be able to diagnose that step as a bottleneck. You can then place more focus on lifting this metric over others that are closer to the benchmark average.

Web Design Bottleneck A/B Testing - Viral Marketing Funnel

In general, if you make each step in the process incredibly short and clear, and provide a very slight progressive commitment of information, you’ll win. Optimize this viral funnel as if it were a landing page or sales funnel, and test for drop off at each step.

What’s Next?


The difference between optimizing a landing page and optimizing a viral loop is that a landing page is a static metric. Throw people in the top, and customers come out the bottom – plain and simple.

However, viral growth is a compounding process. So optimization can be a LOT bigger of a deal if done correctly.

Let’s delve into some basic viral math so you can see exactly what I mean.


Do You Know How to Calculate Your Viral Factor?

Some people may have heard of viral coefficient, but few know exactly what it is and even fewer still can calculate it. Lucky for you this “secret” will be revealed in our next chapter. Professor Viral Panda’s class on viral math is now in session.


Travis Steffen
Viral Buttons by UP