How to design virality in your product ?

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What makes ideas viral and products spread fast? What is the logic behind our love for cat videos and funny memes?

Random internet users may say there is no algorithm behind it. Marketers and growth hackers, however, know that there are certain principles of virality that apply to each single “internet bomb”.

Viral content is circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another. According to Jonah Berger from the University of Pennsylvania, a viral piece of content must be:

  • Surprising — a mix of words that aren’t usually used together (e.g., How many socks do you need to start a fire)
  • Interesting — start with 5W+H (How to wear a pair of sandals without socks?)
  • Intense — viral content must create strong emotions (Homeless guy gets a pair of warm socks as a Secret Santa gift)
  • Positive — the best viral campaigns are positive (Two socks are finally reunited after a drastic adventure in the washing machine)
  • Actionable (practically useful) — solve the problems of your readers (How to match your socks with a work suit).

These are the key characteristics of a viral piece of content. However, viral content can become one through various channels. Knowing the difference between them can help to understand better which one is optimal for one business and won’t work for another one.

  1. Word of mouth — people are talking and sharing the information with their network because the product or service they are using is simply awesome and they can’t help it (for instance, I keep telling my friend how I love Lush hair products).
  2. Paid Word of mouth — businesses hire influencers and testimonials to promote their product or, alternatively, the promos are created around inviting a friend (or ten) to use the service to get a discount (like Uber does).
  3. Demonstration virality — owning a product or using a service shows a certain status (remember the buzz around new iPhones?).
  4. Infectious virality — both sender and receiver of the content will benefit from it (leaving a review on Couchsurfing means getting one back, as well as improving your profile and meeting new couchsurfers).
  5. Outbreak virality — when sharing something is fun, because everyone talks about it already and it’s trendy (Remember white-gold/black-blue dress, PokemonGo or the last episode of Game of Thrones?).

Each of this ways to promote your content or campaign needs to be evaluated according to the type of business one is doing, the audience, the clients and the actual Internet trends.

Why is it important?

It goes without saying that the buzz around your business is what you are aiming for. Creating a positive talking about your product or service is the main purpose of marketing. Referrals can be a great benefit for your business as they are the opinions and experience with your product by someone else, which is more trustworthy.

It is also important to measure the social campaigns that you are promoting. It can give you a complete overview of the reach and engagement with the audience, and even prevent some marketing catastrophes. In case there are negative comments or reactions, you want to be able to resolve them fast. This will not only increase your credibility, but also show the transparency and readiness to put the users in the first place.

How to generate virality?

You might be asking, how can you make people talk positively about my business? Where should you start building this relationship? According to Nielsen, 83% of consumers would be willing to refer new business to a brand they love, but only 29% of them actually do. Here are some methods that proved to work over time.

Show that customers are special

Think of what made you like certain products you purchased lately. Was it a nice postcard from the author added to your bag together with the new book? Or an extra cookie with your coffee? Did you like the personalized note and the user handbook given to you with that beauty box?
We bet it made you feel special. That’s exactly the point. Figure out the 5 things that your business can do for the customers and try them all.

Be special

Another great way to generate talking around your business is to implement a disruptive, unusual company culture. Take Google, Hulu or Valve. They have exceptional, employee-focused and employee-driven corporate guidelines that break the routine of 9-to-5 and obligatory desk-settlement. This does not matter that the employees would be lazy workers without delivering the results, otherwise, this technique has proven to be very effective. This way they ensure the qualified workforce to enter and to stay within the company. And when employees are happy about the place they work in, they become the brand ambassadors.

Always be by their side

This point comes from the previous two ones. Your customer service must be, probably, the most important part of your business. Invest in it. “Customers generated via word of mouth generate higher profits in their customer life cycle, generate higher margins, and are more loyal” (AMA). This means: Happy customer -> Recommendation -> More customers -> Great service -> More happy customers -> Recommendation.

See the example of Shopify: not only are they available for the technical support 24/7, but also provide users with extensive content support.

Get support of influencers

Even though the “influencer marketing” is a buzz term now, it has it’s point, simply because it is actually leveraging the main principle of WOM: people trust the other people that they know. In case of influencer marketing, or paid word of mouth, as discussed earlier, people will gladly listen to their friends, family members or colleagues to get their experience and recommendations because of the trust and emotional bond between them. The same is valid for famous people or bloggers: they have created value in their followers’ lives and gained their trust.

Work on your social media presence

One of the most exciting aspects of social media is the potential for content to “go viral”, says AMA. Indeed, viral campaign is mainly created and shared via social media, which means its power should not be underestimated if you are seeking virality.

You can inform your users and followers about exclusive promos, create an awesome piece of content people will want to share (see what Domino’s did!) or leverage the customer service (e.g., H&M support on social media answers in various languages to the questions users ask about their collections and gives tips about the closest stores in no time).

Measuring virality

Measuring the impact of the viral campaign is a curious process. When the Virality Coefficient (K) is important, the cycle time (ct) is much more crucial. The Cycle time is the average time it takes from one viral action (sharing a piece of content) to a new conversion.

See the formula of David Skok from Matrix Ventures to calculate the amount of users you will get after a period of time based on the Virality Coefficient (K) and the Cycle Time (ct):

“Getting viral” is not an unreachable Neverland. Using the techniques and focusing on the actual value businesses can give to their users and potential customers can create the desired virality and spread the word about the product or service with the speed of light.

Want to know more about viral marketing and how to use it in your development plan? Contact us at