How to Build a Viral Product

Viral Marketing

Having a great product is just part of the equation. Being able to market it successfully is an equal, if not more important part of the puzzle. As a new startup, you probably don’t have a very big marketing budget to begin with. Ideally, you would like your product to market it itself, by having people automatically recommend it to others. So how do you get people to talk about your product and make it go viral?

1. Have a great product.

Purple Cow

This goes without saying. No matter how much you spend on marketing, if your product isn’t very good, then people aren’t going to want to use it, leave alone recommend it to others. People only talk about remarkable products. Is your product remarkable? Is it that much better than anything else out there?

2. Don’t make users login to try out your product.

Many users (myself included) get turned off when they can’t even try a product, without first having to provide personal information. Let them try out your product first, and if they like it, then they will login. Otherwise, expect many users to close your product before they have even tried it.

3. Make it really easy for users to login.

Login with FacebookAssuming that users like your product enough to want to login to use it, make sure it’s really easy for them to do so. They should not see any of the following:

  • Unless your product involves any type of public forum where the user might not want to be identified with their real name, then don’t ask them to create a username, that they will then need to remember just to use your site or app. The days of username based accounts should be long gone.
  • Where possible, offer a one click Facebook login option. It’s easier for you, and easier for the user.
  • Don’t ask for any more information than is required. Don’t ask for birth dates, addresses, phone numbers etc. unless you have a good reason to need it.

4. Make it work well, even if you’re the only user.

The flip side of adding social networking tools to products these days is that some of them only work if your friends are also using it. Unless you have a proper launch strategy in place to fix this issue, you’ll end up with a chicken and egg problem. The product is useless without users. And users won’t be attracted to the product because it’s useless. So make sure the product has functionality in place even if you’re the only user – but make it work better if your friends are also using it.

5. Make it work better, when friends use it.

Social networking products like Facebook, Foursquare etc. are almost useless if none of your friends are using it. However when your friends come on board, then the product becomes a lot more useful. Facebooks’ developer tools make it easy to integrate Facebook login and friend lists into your product, so users can invite their friends. Create features that genuinely add functionality to your app when users’ friends are using it (as opposed to spamming your friends with no benefit to you).

6. Make it really easy for users to share / invite others.

Assuming you have a great product that users enjoyed using, and you have convinced them to share it with others, then make it easy for them to do so. There should be a one click share or invite button for them to use. Make it any more complicated than that, and you risk them losing the motivation to do so.

Facebook Share

 7. Bribe users to invite their friends

If your product doesn’t really have any social features built in, you can try bribing your users to invite their friends. Dropbox made a big success of this through their referral program. Offer users credits towards paid features for friends that they invite and start using the system.

There are many users out there who are used to not paying for things. By offering such a program, you can gain benefit from this crowd as well.

8. Sign your Product

Another way to make your product is to let users share it without realizing it. YouTube does this by letting you embed videos onto your site, with a prominent YouTube logo in the corner. Even Apple does this by inserting “Sent on my iPhone” text into emails you send. Can you piggy back on usage of your product by adding a signature somewhere?

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