Viral Marketing

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Some would consider this whole viral phenomenon, the most useful type of metrics in the past few years of social software. Gaining traction by the whole Facebook development kickoff in 2007, the viral factor is nothing but a number from 0.0 to 1.0. It can go further to describe the business issues faced by any and every business around the world. Simply put, viral growth is when one customer brings you more than one referral. For instance, if you get a new customer today, how many new customers will they bring you over N days? The viral loop is responsible for making a product go viral and is quite often rooted in the features and the designs of the product as well. Managing to achieve a viral loop can also be explained by changing the user flow:

Register –> Tell Friends –> Use Product –> Evaluate Product

What is the viral loop?

The viral loop is a system designed to spread a product, before or right at the point where it might be absorbed by a user. For instance, the Washington post shares news that you might be reading on your Facebook feed, all the way to when you are about to click and read the article. It is important that the viral loop should be connected to a positive user experience otherwise, all your efforts would be in vein and your content would be deemed spam.

If we listen to Adam Nash, CEO of Wealthfront when it comes to designing a virality, he says you should focus on these 3 steps:

  1. Clearly, design and come up with the features that would connect members to non-members. Doesn’t have to be in complete detail, your wireframes and flows should be enough to do the trick. After it is successful, go through the numbers since you would need a coefficient of 1.1.
  2. Go through the flows again but this time, handle it with a detailed metrics. This is important for each step of the viral cycle to match your model.
  3. Follow the same process of development, release, measurement and change accordingly. The length of your product cycle would make all the difference at this point. If you release an iteration every two days, don’t be put off by not receiving any immediate results just yet, it might take 2 weeks. After a 3-4 week iteration, it might even take you half a year before hitting your cycle on the head. Speed does matter.


How to build the perfect viral loop?

According to viral marketing expert Andrew Chen, follow the steps below to build a good viral loop.

What’s your viral media?

The most important choice you have to make is how people are going to enter into your viral loop. You can do this through email, Facebook, news feed, blogs and so on.

What’re your products viral hooks?

This is the part that forces your users to share your product and swear by it. It might be a basic appeal to their curiosity (I want to see the photo I have been tagged in), social proof (many friends joined a group, I want to see what all the fuss is about) or a viral hook that makes users take action.

What are the on-ramps of your viral loop?

After you have finished working on a tight viral loop, come up with the on-ramp. In some cases you might be looking at places like websites, homepages paid advertising, marketing campaigns, SEO, etc. where you would be coming up with places where users from your viral loop can begin the process.

What’s your funnel design?

Now that you have chosen the viral loop you want to work with, you have to go through the designs of the same. It should be easy to access and short so you don’t lose anyone’s interest along the way. You might lose quite a few of them if you are asking them to register with a username or password, basically making a process tougher. If you can make the process short and ask them for only their personal information along the way, they are more committed to staying along with you.


If you follow the traditional marketing plan, you will come to terms with the fact that it has a very broad focus, which might not be the best idea. Another aspect to remember is discipline, however, the rule might change a little for a startup since sticking to strict rules, especially in the early formative stages will not take them too far. Startups have to make sure they have the right priorities when moving through the ropes of getting themselves established. If you are just starting up, you do not have to focus on building and managing a marketing team to get the right exposure, managing and better understanding outside vendors, or even trying to get a marketing team with a plan to achieve corporate objectives, there is a time for this and the time is not in the initial stages. Keep your eyes on one thing and one thing only, growth. Growth hacking is not something that has been around for a long time and it has recently started gaining traction, while most even consider it controversial. More than a discipline through, growth hacking is a way of thinking that startups should follow when they are carrying out their strategies to get more users.

Breaking the process of growth hacking down further:

It involves creativity

If you have a growth hacker way of thinking, you would automatically start thinking about ideal and novel ways to drive growth, something being as far from mainstream as possible. This is miles away from creative forms of advertising, might also include a novel feature of a product, or finding interesting ways of getting to new customers. An instance of the way growth hacking can be used is cross-promoting an Instagram post across Facebook and Twitter, which would allow Instagram to get their hands on the large audience that is already out there using Facebook and Twitter.

Involves some critical thinking

Growth hackers do not just assume that various ideas that pass through their heads are good or that they would help elevate growth, thereby making it a good growth hack. They would make sure they handle a ton of research first. It might even involve some experiments, making sure they aren’t investing a lot into it, and then they would measure the results. This would give them an idea if what they were handling made sense.

Either win or learn.

A major part of growth hacking is going through experiment after experiment and measuring the results. After handling a couple of them, comparing them and looking for the best strategies and giving you the most profitable returns on your investment. It would also involve working through and coming with better strategies to increase your investments Simply put Idea – Test – Measure – Learn – Repeat.

Why is it better than marketing?

Growth hacking can be best explained as a mixture or a cross-discipline between analyzing data, managing a product, handling a small bit of marketing but also touching a little on the growth of your product.

Does growth hacking really make sense?

  1. The life of a startup is quite unpredictable

    Since startups are not like a lot of the big companies and multinationals, or even being unlike more established small businesses, other than having a brilliant idea and interesting business model, they have very little time to shine. If they do not manage to succeed in their small window, they would rarely get another. Most established industries have their very predictable marketing models and the general way that they can go about, while startups barely have guard rails that they can move with. Startups have to begin from the basics and figure out their own ropes as they move along. They also have to work on their own customers and business routes.

  2. Everything revolves around getting there quick

    The major distinguishing factor between startups and smaller establishments is that the former tries to make a big impact in very little time, the latter is all about standing the test of time. For instance, restaurants are all about the next season and the one that follows, while startups like Facebook have to begin and get there quick otherwise, they might get beaten to the punch. Startups have a whole new set of issues and have to think about issues that smaller companies might not even need to consider, like getting 1000x the number of users than the other mainstream companies in the same space.

  3. It’s all about the money

    We already know that startups have a small fixed amount of time to succeed, but add another major restriction to make matters worse, they also have limited funding. Assuming a startup started with about $ 150,000, Coca-Cola spends the same amount on their newspaper adverts. Running a startup, you would not have the luxury of spending money the way Coca-Cola does, you instead have to focus on breaking even and making sure you have something to show for. Prove that you have the ability to grow and push toward the next round of funding, everything you do is all about taking a chance at getting more finance.

  4. Everything done should be effective

    Growth hacking is all about handling as many experiments as you can in search of your scalable and repeatable strategy to acquire users, and you have to make sure to handle this in as little time as possible. There are no limits to growth hacking either, which means once the startup has found what it is looking for, its scalable model, it has to keep working to make it better. It is crucial to increase the returns on investment as well and keep the few users you managed to get your hands on.

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