I was watching a guest speaker at Stanford in 2009 discuss three projects he had started . The first one grew to 25K users in a year. The second one grew to 2.5M users in six months and the last one grew to 60M users in four weeks. He was all of 23 years old. I felt my brain split in two as he described his rapid growth. He shared how he used viral loops in the product to increase user growth velocity by factors of ten each time. The last product was designed from the ground up to be viral. I vowed, then and there, that viral growth was something I had to get better at. At the time I was working on a flashcard learning app. It was going nowhere after four years of effort. The project had a viral coefficient of zero.
The lecture at Stanford led me directly to founding my next company, vChatter, with Hitesh Parashar. We prototyped a Facebook video chatting app. It only had three buttons, of which only one actually worked. For the product to be useful, the person you wanted to chat with needed the app as well. This created a strong viral loop built in from the start. There were other product features that completed the viral loop, such as, notification of someone wanting to chat with you. This led to explosive growth. We hit 50K users a day within a week, and within three weeks we were at 500K users a day. It spread across continents and communities like wild fire. We never found a business model, so our startup was ultimately unsuccessful. However, I had built my first viral growth product.
In the Growth Marketing Program at GrowthX Academy, we have a full module on this topic. Here are two key takeaways:
- If you want to make a product viral, it works best when it’s designed as part of the product from the very beginning. This is where a major part of the functionality requires the user to share with others. An example would be Skype. Skype only works if both people have the software.
- There has to be a distinct advantage to the user to share the product with others. An example of this were the early Facebook games, such as Zynga. If you friends played the game, you received advantages that made it easier for you to win. This strongly encouraged you to pester all your friends to join you.
We cover the psychology and design techniques that make this happen, and we go through dozens of case studies to illustrate the points (e.g., HotMail, Paypal, E-Bay, Facebook, Zynga, Slack).
At the Academy, students work on tear-downs of current companies, looking for small improvements that can improve the viral coefficient, and larger issues that require reworking fundamental product flow.
Learning to spot viral loop opportunities in products and exploit them to produce explosive growth, will make you one of the most sought after growth marketers in the industry.
Ready to join the tech revolution? Check out our growth marketing program today!