Viral Marketing Structure - Viral Hero
Before we touch on your viral marketing structure and how to architect your product into a viral superstar, it’s worth reiterating something I’ve said time and time again within the pages of Viral Hero. 

The foundation of ALL viral marketing is value. Namely, the value you provide to your users for bringing others back to you.

As we move forward it’s important to always keep that in mind.

(Note: This is Part 1 of my How to Create Your Viral Marketing Engine tutorial. If you’re just joining us, and want to learn more about the concepts behind viral marketing I recommend checking out our Viral Marketing Basics and 12 Types of Viral Marketing.)

Viral Marketing Structure: Creating Valuable Touch Points


Asking nicely is for amateurs.

No matter how nice you ask somebody to do something, they won’t do it unless they see value from it. (Or you threaten them with a really big stick.) Your mom may get value from making you happy after you ask for something nicely, but random strangers on the Internet who aren’t your mom won’t be so kind.

To truly make your site viral, you have to create new value; value that your users can unlock by inviting others. However, simply HAVING that value is only one piece of the bigger viral puzzle.

Start With Your Viral Loop


To effectively architect your viral loop, you must take the following 4 things into consideration:

  • It must be easy to see WHAT the value for inviting or sharing is
  • It must be obvious to see HOW the invite or share occurs
  • It must be quick to actually ACT once the action is obvious
  • Most importantly, the user must actually WANT to invite others

To make this chapter even more effective for you, I’ll provide a simple example of a viral loop I personally architected as the Head of Growth for a brand called AutoLotto.

AutoLotto’s Viral Structure: Answering Easy and Important Questions


There are six “magical” questions that can help transform your site and successfully map your viral loop. I’ve listed them below followed by how we answered them at AutoLotto.

Some of these are going to seem like obvious, day one-style questions. They may seem like questions any Joe Schmoe could answer. That’s exactly why they’re tricky. If you don’t ask or answer these questions in the proper context, they won’t serve the right purpose for you.

Most of the time, founders and growth engineers ask these questions through the lens of product development or ideation, not through the lens of viral marketing and mapping your loop(s). But just for a second, try to trust me. We’ll get to your million-dollar revelation quicker than you think.

Okay, let’s dive in:

1) WHY does a user come to your product?


AutoLotto (now called is a mobile app allowing users in select states to play the lottery on their phone from start to finish (i.e. from getting their tickets to cashing out winnings into their bank accounts). At the moment, users come to AutoLotto because they’ve been exposed to it via an ad or have been invited by another user.

AutoLotto Homepage - Viral Marketing Structure

Most of the time, users are NOT proactively searching for a new, more frictionless way of playing the lottery. They’ve been conditioned to think the game is only played using paper tickets they get at local convenience or grocery stores. They’ve often also witnessed scammy, fake products on the Internet promising similar value, but not delivering. For this reason, brand awareness and trust were our most important commodities.


  • Based on how users are exposed to your product, are they adequately shown the narrative about who you are and what you do?
  • How can you more effectively smooth the transition from awareness to lead generation by creating one cohesive storyline with zero interruptions or confusion?

2) What CORE VALUE do you pass on to users?


AutoLotto gives users a modern method of skipping the simple, yet annoying process of physically going to the store to purchase paper lottery tickets. It also provides them an easier method of skipping the even more annoying process of checking their numbers, and cashing in their winning tickets.

In short, AutoLotto acts as a concierge service for users, doing all the manual work for them. It allows the user to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fun of playing the lottery. (E.g. Imagining all the crazy, lavish things they’d do with the jackpot if they became the next lucky winner.)


  • Are you sure that users can instantly see the core value you provide them with? What evidence are you using to justify your claim?
  • Do you have to convince users that they need your product? How could you simplify your product, your language, and/or your marketing to make them instantly see the value you provide?

3) What have users’ EXPERIENCES been to date?


Lottery players are used to an annoying, antiquated process of going to the store, buying paper tickets, manually checking their tickets, manually calculating how much they’ve won, and then remembering to go to the store to cash in their winnings. If they’ve won over a certain amount, they actually have to physically go to the lottery commission in their state to cash in their larger prize, fill out tax forms, and go through the whole ordeal of claiming their funds.

Auto Lotto App Jackpot - Viral Marketing Structure

While this seems like a small price to pay for a nice chunk of change, most players would disagree. In fact, over $2 billion in winnings go unclaimed every single year in the US.


  • What was life like for users before your product?
  • What is life like for users after your product?

4) How is your product DIFFERENT – really?


AutoLotto gives users a well-designed, smooth lottery experience from their mobile device. In about 60 seconds, they can actually use the free ticket incentive we’ve added to their account that they unlock by completing the new user activation funnel. This allows them to demo the product and see the value it provides without any financial commitment or perceived risk.

Once they’ve tried it for free, they can continue to play every week by linking a credit card, debit card, or bank account. In fact, they don’t even have to manually play every week.

With the AutoPlay function, AutoLotto gets users their tickets automatically every week, notifying them when they win. If they don’t want to play every draw, users can set their preferences to ONLY activate AutoPlay when the jackpot is above a certain threshold they set.

AutoLotto Autoplay app - Viral Marketing Structure

When they win, the cashout process is even easier. Users just link up their bank account in the app, and are sent their winnings instantly. If they prefer to let it ride and use their winnings for more tickets (as most winning tickets are in the $4-$10 range), we provide that option as well.

Lastly, users never have to worry about losing, damaging, or forgetting to check their tickets. AutoLotto takes care of this entire process for them. Tickets are insured, and winning notifications and cashouts happen automatically.

In short, AutoLotto provides users with the quickest, easiest, safest, and most secure way to play the lottery everyone already knows and loves.


  • Have you done a thorough sweep of the competitive landscape lately? IF there isn’t anybody else doing what you do, why do you think that is?
  • Is your product ACTUALLY different, or are you just justifying / burying your head in the sand?

5) How do you know the value you THINK you’re providing is ACTUALLY valuable?


This one’s easy. The answer is: retention rates are stellar.

Of users who proceed through the onboarding flow and redeem their free ticket, more than half stick around for over 30 days. That number isn’t much lower after 60 and 90 days. Compared to most mobile apps today which boast “good” 30-day retention rates anywhere from 10-20% depending on the industry, and you’ve got a solid foundation upon which you can build scalable growth engines of any kind – including viral ones.


  • Is it just value to you personally, or have you done qualitative research on the aggregate?
  • Why aren’t more competitors trying to provide this value currently? What happens when they do?

6) HOW does a user pass on your product?


To work well, the viral loop within AutoLotto had to be as simple as the product itself. And that’s exactly how we built it. For every friend you invite to join AutoLotto, both you and that friend get a free Powerball ticket. There’s no limit to the number of friends you can invite.

Right now, the viral carrier is SMS, but the goal is to experiment with other methods.


  • Do you have to take time to explain to users how your viral loop works, or is it instantly obvious and intuitive? How can you make it even more simple, or easy to understand?
  • Based on users’ experiences with your product to date, what is the most obvious method of sending invites if it were to happen organically (i.e. outside of your architected viral loop)? Is this how you’ve designed your viral carrier?

Turn Your Answers Into Action


Now that you’ve got the core questions to ask yourself – and you’ve seen some real world answers from a product I’ve personally had a hand in architecting – it’s time to turn these seemingly menial answers into things you can actually use in order to improve.

Here’s a short list of expansion questions to help take you forward:

(Note: We won’t get too deep into each of these yet as we’ll dive deeper into them in later chapters.)

  1. Is there a way you can make the benefits of sharing your site more obvious?
  2. Is there a way you can augment this value to make the decision easier?
  3. How intuitive is it for users to see when and how this value transfer happens?
  4. Do the requirements needed to invite users make the path to value shorter?
  5. Have you added your metrics to each step in your loop to make bottlenecks reveal themselves?
  6. Could you combine or remove any steps in your viral loop to make it faster?

If you don’t have answers to the questions above OR if the answers you have come up with aren’t the answers you want – it’s time to make some changes.

What’s Next


Viral success will never happen overnight. In the first iteration of any product, funnel, or process, meticulous optimization is what leads to the overwhelming success we all want.

The next step in your Viral Hero journey on Creating a Winning Viral Marketing Engine will walk you through viral optimization, and how you can put it to use for your company.


Conversion Rate Optimization Isn't Just for Sales Funnels

Conversion rate optimization is one of the most critical skills needed by any company’s growth department. However, most companies don’t optimize their viral loops nearly enough as they should.


Travis Steffen
Viral Buttons by UP