I went to the CommunityNext event last weekend, called Viral! From Zero to 10 Million Users, which was basically all about viral marketing techniques, success stories, failure stories, how you do it, etc. Some key takeaways:
- Focus on "short jumps" for the user, says the CTO from RockYou (arguably the king of all widget distribution). Find things that people are already doing within their blog or social networks, and make it simpler/better with more features. Uniquesness is also very important.
- Don't guess, test! Every speaker felt strongly about testing with users, revving, then testing again. Metrics, metrics, metrics!!
- Viral can seldom be reproduced. You simply must design virality into your product as best you can, then test. Users are fickle, and a product that spread virally the first time may not the next. You'll know it when you've finally arrived at a hit, but you've gotta pay attention. See my post about Viral Growth Optimization.
- Use Google AdWords for testing. I loved this one. If you want to quickly test your company tagline, messaging, landing pages, etc. use Google AdWords and do A/B testing. Watch the click-thru and conversion rates and you'll know what resonates best.
- If you're focused on viral Facebook distribution (via the platform), the mini-feed is more important than the profile.
- PR is a waste of money. I asked a panel of speakers where PR fits into a viral strategy. They all said it's a waste of money. I partially agree -- see my previous post.
- Don't worry about revenue. There was a LOT of focus on widget distribution and the Facebook platform, and zero focus on revenue models. One VC said that he tells entrepreneurs not to worry about revenue, just focus on viral (free) distribution, because if you can prove a free user acquisition model, then ANY revenue you can generate will result in your rev/user metrics to be better than your cost/user. More below ...
- RockYou and Gigya are focusing on widget distribution. So if you have a widget and want to have a 3rd party get it out there, they seem like they can do it.
- MySpace guy Jason Feffer talked about how MySpace was all about exhibition and personal promotion. This attracted a lot of voyeurs and is still a huge driver of pageviews (people surfing). I knew this already but is still interesting to point out I think.
Ok, yeah I get the VC guy's point about user acquisition costs vs. revenue per user, but still -- I like to think about a revenue model that works. We were hearing from people who had achieved 225K users in 4 days, or were getting 100K new users daily, and the crowd was impressed of course -- but they had NO revenue model. Unless you have erected some barriers to entry and/or keep adding features to develop long-term loyal users, I'm just not convinced you can turn on a revenue model (like advertising) and NOT jeopardize user retention. Keep in mind this was in the context of widgets, which by and large have been hits-driven and haven't demonstrated a revenue model yet.