The most successful apps are the ones that spread like virus.
They leveraged their existing users to spread the app to new users.
The concept of ‘Viral marketing’ was first popularised by Hotmail in 1995 when they put “Get your free web based email at Hotmail” in the footer of every user’s email. This allowed them to reach a stage where the service was adding 270,000 new users every single day. In Dec 1997, Sabeer Bhatia sold the service to Microsoft for $400 million.
The key distinction of viral marketing is this. Traditional marketing follows the shape of a funnel, channelling from more users to fewer users. Example 1000 users see your ad, 100 click the ad, 1 download the app. But viral marketing follows the shape of an inverted funnel, working from few to many users. 1 user download the app, that user invites 10 users, the 10 users invite 10 users each and the funnel gets wider and wider.
Viral marketing is the phenomena when people actively spread a product or service to others either voluntarily or involuntarily. In the Hotmail example, it was involuntary. Users spread the service just by using the service. Viral marketing can also be created artificially by creating a clear need or incentive for a user to invite other users.
Create viral loops:
Some of the world’s greatest apps have been built with incentives for their users to invite more users. For example, Dropbox offers free storage when a user invites a friend to create a Dropbox account. Uber gives you taxi credit when you share your experience with your friends and invite them to use the service. AirBnB offers hosts money for introducing new hosts to AirBnB.
What feature can you build into your app to create this viral loop? This is a very hot topic in app marketing, and you can find plenty of books, articles, and websites on this topic if you google “viral loops”.
Build network effect:
The network effect is a phenomenon where a product becomes more valuable and useful when more people use it. Facebook is a great example: you love it even more when all your friends are there participating with you. Whatsapp is more useful when all your friends and family, local and international, are using it, as it makes communication quicker and easier.
Network effect motivates users to invite their contacts to use an app because it will make the app even more valuable for them… and because it’s fun to share. Does your app make use of network effect? Does it have a feature that makes the app more valuable to a user when they have friends, family, colleague using the app?
Keep in mind that all of this work only when your product is great. Creating viral loops and network effect are just two more possibilities for successful marketing that will add to your success and position you to produce that next great app idea that’s rattling around in your brain.
For other promotional techniques, see our posts on advertising, celebrity endorsement, and forming strategic partnerships.back to the Blog