How Do You Go Viral?

How do you go viral? Or perhaps a better question is why do some things go viral and others don’t?

In this blog post I try to answer the question, how do you go viral?

Here are a couple points I learned recently from taking a course call Networked Life on coursera.  I’ll also draw from my experience building viral marketing campaigns and launching a couple social networks.

The ability of a virus to spread depends on the average degree of connections between nodes, or people in a population.  If you have a population where the average amount of connections per person is 1 then the virus won’t spread very far as it will just keep halting after reaching the second person.

If you have an average degree of 2 between people in the population then right away the viral reach of a contagion is much strong, much more than 2 times actually.  Then it doesn’t take much more to reach the tipping point at 3 or 4 which is a threshold where the contagion of the viral spread is complete in reaching the entire population.

Another element of the tipping point is the strength of the virus, or in a youtube video’s case, how entertaining the video is.  Meaning, if the video is really good and people like it will take a lower average degree of connections in the population to spread as would a weaker video.  Much like a bad flu that hangs around for a long time.  If you are in a more rural area with a weak flu it will die out quickly but if the virus is much stronger and makes someone sick longer there is a greater chance for that person to encounter more people while still being contagious.

On the flip side, if someone is living in a densely populated slum in India where people are basically living on top of one another, even a weak flu will make it’s way around a large percentage of the population due to the incredibly high degree of connections everyone shares.

So what the heck does all this mean?  Basically, if you want your content marketing strategy to go viral make sure you focus on these three points.

  1. Make the content awesome so that people keep on enjoying it and sharing it with their connections.   You can’t skimp on the investment here.  If it sucks, it won’t go anywhere.
  2. Make sure you’re spreading it in the networks where your target market has the highest average degree of connections.  A great example would be if you are trying to reach mommy bloggers.  You’re going to want to make twitter your priority over facebook because they are all there and they love to share good stuff.
  3. Focus on getting as many influencers sharing your viral content because they will boost the average degree of connections by having more connections than the average person.  Additionally, they can actually make your content stronger by adding their approval to it.  It’s like when a virus strain mutates into something more powerful and harder to kill.

Please share your thoughts on creating viral reach in the comment section below.  I’m always happy to learn something from my readers.  🙂




What is Gamification?

In this blog post I will try to answer the question, what is gamification? This is a very important question for any one who needs to motivate people to take action or to simply make a product or service more enjoyable.

Ever wondered what it is about Angry Birds that has generated over 1 billion downloads? Is there anything you can learn from that game to apply to your product to make more people like it, you bet there is. It’s called gamification.

So what is gamification? and how do I apply it to solve real world problems?

There isn’t one universal definition but in general it’s the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.

For example, Samsung Nation is an example of a company using game elements to get more traffic and more interaction with their products.  They motivate users to write reviews, watch videos, find out more, register products they have already bought, etc. They use simple elements they took from games like leader boards, badges, points etc. They ultimately want you to buy more products and are using game elements to reach that goal.

Another great example is the Nike Plus app. It uses the accelerometer on your phone to make your experience of running more game like. It tracks your data, compares you to other runners, has goals and challenges and if you achieve those goals you earn medals and trophies. They also built in ways to connect with friends to get encouragement. So the game structure around the task of running somehow make the experience of running feel more rewarding by using their app.

A competing app also meant to get people running is Zombies Run.  But here the  app is telling you that you are being chased by a group of zombies that want to kill you and eat your brains.  So it is simply making your run more fun, which is different from Nike Plus which is using challenges and rewards.

There are even products like Keas which is a service that helps people in companies engage in activities that makes them healthier, using regular game elements.  Such as:

  • Points
  • Quests
  • Avatars
  • Social graph
  • Levels
  • Progression
  • Resource Collection

But games are not just a jumble of elements stuck together in a half hazard way, rather they use game design that is systematic, thoughtful and artistic.  All of course, for the purpose of being fun.  This involves technology, algorithms, engineering while approaching problems using concepts that relate to all games while applying them to novel situations.

Some gamification examples focus on the elements and some focus more on the game design but all require a non-game context.  Meaning, what the user is doing is game like but the purpose has a validity and intention independent of the experience of the game-like elements.

I hope this shed some light on gamification and please let me know of other good examples you have experienced in the comments below.