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  • 1. IDEA WATCHVision Statement Sinan Aral is an assistant professor and Dylan Walker is a research scientist at New York University’s Stern School of Business. This research is drawn from a paper forthcoming in Management Science. BLUE RED LIGHT BLUE GRAYMAPPING ADOPTION OF INITIAL ADOPTER 2ND-TIER 3RD-TIER ADOPTER OTHER PEOPLE IN ADOPTER (REFERRED BY ADOPTERS’ SOCIALONE PRODUCT… (REFERRED BY AN A 2ND-TIER NETWORKS INITIAL ADOPTER) ADOPTER) …WHEN THE PRODUCT HAS …WHEN THE PRODUCT HAS NO VIRAL FEATURES PASSIVE VIRAL FEATURESForget Viral Marketing—Make the Product Itself ViralDon’t spend your time saturating YouTube with VIRAL PRODUCTS ARE MORE EFFECTIVE THAN TRADITIONAL MARKETINGgoofy videos, hoping one of them will be the next Simply adding a “Share” button to your product canviral marketing sensation. Research we conducted increase peer-to-peer influence over product purchasewith the marketing analytics firm Social Amp proves by 400%. Viral product design has been shown to be up to 10 times as effective at increasing adoption asthat you can engineer digital (and even physical) traditional banner ads and up to twice as effective asproducts to increase peer-to-peer promotion. The 400 0 e-mail campaigns.graphics above illustrate the explosive effect onadoption among 2 million Facebook users whenviral features, such as user-generated personalizedinvitations, were added to a software app forsharing and discussing film-industry information.by Sinan Aral and Dylan Walker HBR Reprint F1106Z % INCREASE IN PEER-TO-PEER INFLUENCE34 Harvard Business Review June 2011
  • 2. HBR.ORG Viral Features Passive Active PROS PROS Broader reach Personalized to be more More messages persuasive and sent, and thus more effective more adoption Generates Reaches more user a more engagement, heterogeneous longer use of population the product, and less churn by adopters CONS CONS Less effective Narrower reach per message Fewer Generates messages sent, less user and thus less engagement, adoption shorter use of the product, Reaches and more a more churn by homogeneous adopters population The social cost of annoying people USE IT TO USE IT TO Spread the Build a loyal word about a customer base product widely Make a product Generate sticky adoption quickly Increase user engagement …WHEN THE PRODUCT HAS ACTIVE AND PASSIVE VIRAL FEATURESTHE VIRAL PRODUCT LANDSCAPE ACTIVE FEATURES ARE ACTIVE PERSONAL MORE PERSUASIVE % 2% SOCIAL OFFERS 6 INVITATIONS such as LivingSocial’s such as those group couponing provided with Google beta productsUSER-GENERATED 6% INCREASE INNOTIFICATIONS ADOPTION PERsuch as “Tweet” MESSAGE, VERSUSand “Share” buttons 2% FOR PASSIVE EMBEDDED OFFERS PASSIVE FEATURES such as free account GET THE MOST HITS 246 6% sign-ups in e-mail messages AUTOMATED AUTOMATED TARGETING 98% PASSIVE NOTIFICATIONS such as Amazon’s such as iTunes Ping social product and Google Buzz recommendations 246% INCREASE IN TOTAL ADOPTION, VERSUS 98% FOR BROAD POPULATION SPECIFIC INDIVIDUALS ACTIVE June 2011 Harvard Business Review 35