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Product Strategy

App Virality: 8 tips to make it happen

Nisha Gopinath Menon
June 8, 2019

You’re convinced that you’ve built a product people will come to love and depend upon. But how do you feed the people the language to talk about it and enhance the word of mouth experience? How do you remind them to talk about it when they have a great experience? How do you drive virality? Some tend to look at virality as a function of infrastructure. Put in every share tool available on your app, house an article or two and let it organically take off from there. And other’s believe it’s all luck and pixie dust. Fortunately, it’s more concrete than that. Many successful companies have employed distinct practices to help make their products go viral.

  • For the select few, their product is just so good that people can’t help talking about it. If anybody spies you browsing on Internet Explorer, they would come up to you and ask you why you aren't using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox instead because they are just that much better. For the rest of us, it takes a little more work.
  • At the heart of virality lies user-friendliness. It doesn't matter if your app was built well enough to do its job if making the app do the job is a difficult process for a user. Such an app is unlikely to go into a viral loop. Users will feel at home and foster virality by sharing it with their friends when the design is intuitive.
  • Make sure your product is easy to find. Having a name that is easy to remember and spell certainly helps. Also, if you are calling your application PayMore, most platforms will show PayPal and such apps before yours, until you're as big as a PayPal. So keep these details in mind.
  • Incentivize word-of-mouth virality. Companies like Dropbox and Uber have used incentives to significant effect. By referring a friend, both get more free storage or a discount on their next ride. It’s a win-win. But since you are discounting your service, it’s not quite as clean or organic as word-of-mouth, but it can prove to be effective.
  • The act of sharing serves as a built-in advertisement for your app’s awesomeness. spread similarly as users and influencers created cool music videos and then shared them on social networking sites, and others decided to try to make their own. Even Snapchat cashed into this form of virality with their unique filters. Uber too benefited from this early on. You and a friend might be leaving for home after dinner out, and while you’re struggling to hail a cab, your friend just presses a few buttons on Uber, and a car shows up. Just by using Uber, he serves as a walking advertisement for the product.
  • Some things just spread by piggybacking on something that’s already popular. Pokémon Go took off in part because it was so different from the pack and because all your friends were doing it and you wanted to participate yourself. But it was also leveraging a very established, beloved brand.
  • Factor in virality into your product in a natural way. Founders often decide to add an invite flow into their product because they’ve seen it work elsewhere. If it’s not well positioned and well integrated, it won’t work. An invite flow will only produce a bunch of ineffective invites that don’t convert into new users. It might just usher in a whole lot of transient users who do not stick around. Whenever you’re thinking about engineering virality, you need to ensure that it’s talking to the right people, gets them interested for reasons that align with the purpose of your app, and leads them to the right actions. If Instagram had offered free burgers to all who signed up, they might have roped in a lot of new users faster, but those people would all leave as soon as they finished the burger. When a user shares an invite to Instagram to a friend of his, and they start scrolling through his posts and later starting posting themselves, the viral hook connects a lot more naturally.
  • End of the day, only one metric truly counts, the number of people using your product. Not clicking on it, not downloading it, not trying it for a day. Actually using it for what it’s meant to be used for.
 So make sure your viral techniques are aligned towards the goal of increasing the number of users who will actually use your app for its designed purpose.
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Nisha Gopinath Menon