The Science behind Viral marketing

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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.

More in: Business , Technology
  • 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 and
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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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  • 1. The Science behindViral Marketing
    Lessons Learned
  • 2. Explosive growth!
    Gilt Groupe
    All have set records for growth rates
    The key is Virality
  • 3. 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!
  • 4. The Best Business Model
    Virally acquired customers are free
    Cost ofCustomerAcquisition(CoCA)
  • 5. Topics
    The Science behind Viral Marketing
    How to do Viral Marketing
    Optimizing for Virality
    Making this work for your business
  • 6. 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
  • 7. The Viral Loop
  • 8. 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
  • 9. 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.
  • 10. An Example
    Custs(0) = 5
    i = 10
    conv% = 20%
    K = 2
  • 11. 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)
  • 12. Sensitivity to K
    See Spreadsheet model
  • 13. Sensitivity to K
  • 14. 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
  • 15. YouTube versus Tabblo
    Both started around the same time
    YouTube’s growth massively outstripped Tabblo
    What was happening here?
  • 16. 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
  • 17. 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!
  • 18. A More Sophisticated Formula
    t = timect = cycle time
    Thanks to Stan Reissfor help with the forumula
  • 19. What this tells us
    Raised to the Power of …
    Shortening the cycle time has a far bigger effect than changing Viral coefficient!
  • 20. Some experiments
    See Spreadsheet model
  • 21. Some Experiments
    Time - t
    No wonder YouTube was explosive!
  • 22. Lesson Learned
    Reducing Viral Loop cycle time has by far and away the greatest effect on viral growth
  • 23. How to do Viral Marketing
  • 24. 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
  • 25. Figure out the Viral Hook
    Something very compelling that the user wants to share
  • 26. Viral Hook - What works:
    Something of Value:
    Educational content
    Things of monetary value (Discounts and coupons)
    Something entertaining
    Inherently Viral Services
    Email, Skype, etc.
  • 27. Why do people share?
    A paper on that here: (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
  • 28. Content Types
    Applications and Services
  • 29.
  • 30.
  • 31. Using engineering for marketing
  • 32. Inherently Viral Applications
    The most viral apps are those that are require sharing to work properly:
  • 33. 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,, etc.
  • 34. 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
  • 35. 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
  • 36. Lessons Learned Optimizing for Virality
  • 37. Lessons Learned
    Apply my “Unblock your Sales Funnel” principles to the viral loop steps
    • Hate being sold to
    • 39. Find it offensive to give name and email
    • 40. Don’t want to get spam sales emails
    • 41. Worried that email address will be given to other marketers
    • Want to solve my problem
    • 42. Recommendation from a friend
    • 43. Education
    • 44. Data/ information reports
    • 45. Entertainment
    • 46. Free stuff
    • 47. Meeting other people like me that have insights to share
    • Customer testimonials address vendor risk
    • 48. Free trials address product viability and fit concerns
    • 49. Lowest price guarantees
  • Example: Groupon
  • 50. Example: Living Social
  • 51. 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
  • 52. 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
  • 53. Lessons Learned
    Look for ways to automate the whole invitation process
    No thinking required
    No work required
  • 54.
  • 55. Don’t just invite once
    Look for ways to keep repeating invites
    E.g. Facebook games like Farmville that post to your News Stream
  • 56. Lessons Learned
    Look for other ways to get your customers to tell their friends about you
    Example: ConstantContact’s email signature
  • 57. Reduce the Cycle Time
  • 58. Lessons Learned
    Hybrid Viral
    Even if you can’t get a viral coefficient > 1you can still enhance customer acquisitionwith some virality
  • 59. 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
  • 60. Make it work for your Business
  • 61. 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
  • 62. The Result:
    Thanks to
  • 63. Some Fun Examples
    For a full set, visit:
  • 64. For More information
    Visit my blog at