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The Science behind Viral marketing

The Science behind Viral marketing



The Science behind Viral Marketing is a look at the key factors that drive growth in viral marketing. (Hint, the most important factor is not the one everyone expects.) It also looks at what is needed ...

The Science behind Viral Marketing is a look at the key factors that drive growth in viral marketing. (Hint, the most important factor is not the one everyone expects.) It also looks at what is needed to get virality to work, and how to create and optimize viral marketing campaigns or viral products.

One part of the presntation shows the key formulae behind viral marketing.

Suitable for marketers or for product designers.



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  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
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  • Groupon is dead
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  • If anyone wants to know more about how to make something go viral when you aren't rich and famous, read http://GrowMap.com/viral-marketing and http://growmap.com/youtube-viral-marketing/
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  • The key to going viral is to start with something exceptionally compelling emotionally or so simple and useful anyone can use it without a learning curve and to line up influencers IN ADVANCE to share it quickly. If you can trip the algorithm on a site with enormous traffic you give yourself a chance. Fail to do that and you're not getting off the ground.

    Ideally, you need influencers related to your product with influence on the platform you want to use. For example, if you have money and want to go viral on YouTube, hire someone like Rhett and Link to produce your video and launch it to their already enormous audience who loves their work.

    People have to realize that the major sites are not #1 because they're the best - they are number one because the media blesses them with continual promotion. If you aren't one of their golden toys you aren't going to get that advantage, but if all you care about is flipping your startup they may acquire you.

    What I really want to find is people who want to build and grow alternatives for those of us who are tired of playing corporate games and support small business. That market is much smaller and we need to get it together and build a system to support deserving solutions that aren't going to be continual dead ends by design.
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  • Fantastic insight. Fascinating to map out and formulate the model, thanks David for a great presentation...and it's free and going viral!
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  • Sorry to be a troll, but I think your the formula you wrote down is really convoluted.

    You could simply have written:
    C(t) = A + B exp( t/ t0) (*)
    (identically the same equation after redefining some symbols)
    This has an easy interpretation: you have some population of customers that is undergoing viral growth (quantified by B) and a population of steady customers that is remaining approximately static (quantified by A).

    Are you trying to say:
    When a product goes viral, you have disentangle the viral population from the static population.

    (*) if you don't like using exponential functions, you can write this as
    C(t) = A + B * 2^(t/ t_2)
    where t_2 is the doubling time.
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    The Science behind Viral marketing The Science behind Viral marketing Presentation Transcript

    • The Science behindViral Marketing
      Lessons Learned
    • Explosive growth!
      Gilt Groupe
      All have set records for growth rates
      The key is Virality
    • The Power of Viral Marketing
      When it works it is Free!!
      Far more effective than paid promotions and advertising campaigns
      If done well can be self-sustaining + growth
      Unfortunately rarely achieved!
    • The Best Business Model
      Virally acquired customers are free
      Cost ofCustomerAcquisition(CoCA)
    • Topics
      The Science behind Viral Marketing
      How to do Viral Marketing
      Optimizing for Virality
      Making this work for your business
    • Where my experiences come from
      Photosharing site
      Founded by Antonio Rodriguez, 2005
      Acquired by HP within 18 months
      Great investment return
      All credit is owed to Antonio Rodriguez
    • The Viral Loop
    • The Math behind Virality
      Key variables:
      Custs(0) The initial set of customers
      i The number of invites sent out
      conv% The percentage of invites that convert into customers
    • The Viral Coefficient
      K The Viral Coefficient
      K = no of invites x The conversion % (i x conv%)
      Turns out to be a very important variable. It equals the number of new customers that each customer is able to successfully invite.
    • An Example
      Custs(0) = 5
      i = 10
      conv% = 20%
      K = 2
    • The Formula
      New custs added in this cycle =
      New custs added in the previous cycle x K
      Assumes that customers only send out invites once, and not continuously in every later cycle
      To calculate the number of customers at any particular cycle (c):
      Custs(c) = Custs(c-1) + NewCusts(c)
    • Sensitivity to K
      See Spreadsheet model
    • Sensitivity to K
    • What we learned
      Viral Coefficient must be > 1
      to have viral growth
      Viral Growth is a compounding phenomenon
      Increasing the Viral Coefficient has a big impact on the rate of growth
    • YouTube versus Tabblo
      Both started around the same time
      YouTube’s growth massively outstripped Tabblo
      What was happening here?
    • Tabblo’s Viral Loop
      User discovered Tabblo
      Wait till they take some photos
      Share (i.e. invite others)
      Some portion of those think, this is great, I want to use this myself
      Wait till they take some photos
    • YouTube’s Viral Loop
      User discovers YouTube
      Sees some hilariously funny content
      Decides to share that with friends
      Friends see hilariously funny content
      Decide to share that with their friends
      The time to infect is far shorter!
    • A More Sophisticated Formula
      t = timect = cycle time
      Thanks to Stan Reissfor help with the forumula
    • What this tells us
      Raised to the Power of …
      Shortening the cycle time has a far bigger effect than changing Viral coefficient!
    • Some experiments
      See Spreadsheet model
    • Some Experiments
      Time - t
      No wonder YouTube was explosive!
    • Lesson Learned
      Reducing Viral Loop cycle time has by far and away the greatest effect on viral growth
    • How to do Viral Marketing
    • The Basics
      Figure out the Viral Hook
      What makes people want to share content?
      Content or Product/Service
      Initial Seeding
      Use communications networks to spread
      Email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.
      Refresh & Re-seed
    • Figure out the Viral Hook
      Something very compelling that the user wants to share
    • Viral Hook - What works:
      Something of Value:
      Educational content
      Things of monetary value (Discounts and coupons)
      Something entertaining
      Inherently Viral Services
      Email, Skype, etc.
    • Why do people share?
      A paper on that here:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/science/09tier.html (summary)
      Virality driven by physiological arousal
      High arousal, Postive (awe) – most likely to be shared
      High arousal, Negative (anger or anxiety) – less likely
      Low arousal, de-activating (sadness) – unlikely
    • Content Types
      Applications and Services
    • Using engineering for marketing
    • Inherently Viral Applications
      The most viral apps are those that are require sharing to work properly:
    • Initial Seeding
      The bigger your initial seeding the better
      Identify Influencers
      Reach / Influence
      Klout, SocMetrics and other services emerging to help
      Develop the right relationship
      Listen, Strategize, Engage, Measure
      Paid Seeding
      Paid search, Virool.com, etc.
    • Spread through Communications Networks
      Early days this was email
      Social Networks have turbo-charged sharing
      What you want:
      Low effort for the user doing the sharing
    • Refreshing and Re-Seeding
      Google Search (paid and organic)
      Creates new seeding
      New Blog posts
      Cause your existing readers to re-invite
      Farmville, etc.
      Continue to invite by regular posts to your wall
    • Lessons Learned Optimizing for Virality
    • Lessons Learned
      Apply my “Unblock your Sales Funnel” principles to the viral loop steps
      • Hate being sold to
      • Find it offensive to give name and email
      • Don’t want to get spam sales emails
      • Worried that email address will be given to other marketers
      • Want to solve my problem
      • Recommendation from a friend
      • Education
      • Data/ information reports
      • Entertainment
      • Free stuff
      • Meeting other people like me that have insights to share
      • Customer testimonials address vendor risk
      • Free trials address product viability and fit concerns
      • Lowest price guarantees
    • Example: Groupon
    • Example: Living Social
    • Another strategy
      Offer a reward both to the user and to their friend
      Overcomes the feeling of being sleazy
      Can lead to much higher success rates
    • Lessons Learned
      Maximize the number of invites they send out
      Leverage tools that provide easy reach to their friends:
      Facebook: post to their News Stream
      Automate access to their address book
      Works well for GMail, and other on-line address books
    • Lessons Learned
      Look for ways to automate the whole invitation process
      No thinking required
      No work required
    • Don’t just invite once
      Look for ways to keep repeating invites
      E.g. Facebook games like Farmville that post to your News Stream
    • Lessons Learned
      Look for other ways to get your customers to tell their friends about you
      Example: ConstantContact’s email signature
    • Reduce the Cycle Time
    • Lessons Learned
      Hybrid Viral
      Even if you can’t get a viral coefficient > 1you can still enhance customer acquisitionwith some virality
    • Lessons Learned
      The Viral Loop is an important Funnel
      Design each step carefully
      Simplify and eliminate manual steps
      Test for adequate motivations and incentives
      Address concerns
      A/B test each step
      Metrics to evaluate and improve
    • Make it work for your Business
    • What can go wrong? - Branchout
      Social networks are for hanging out with friends
      Not promoting your business
      Branchout (recruiting app on Facebook)
      Spammed users walls with way too many entries
    • The Result:
      Thanks to paulamarttila.posterous.com
    • Some Fun Examples
      For a full set, visit:
    • For More information
      Visit my blog at www.forEntrepreneurs.com