Bryan Lee

Surpassing the limitations of viral acquisition methods

Viral acquisition methods can be loosely classified into 4 types: word-of-mouth, casual contact, incentivized, and organic.

  • Word-of-mouth — User tells a friend about our product because it is awesome. This is not within our direct influence other than building a product that delights.
  • Casual contact — Through normal usage of the product, other people come into contact and know about our product. (E.g. Sent with my iPhone emails)
  • Incentivized — Giving users incentives to recommend our product to their friends. (E.g. Affiliate or tell-a-friend programs)
  • Organic — Inviting another user to join brings additional value to the user (E.g. inviting collaborators, Slack)

Word-of-mouth is something we cannot directly influence. Incentivized and organic methods are highly limited by the size of the user's network. Casual contact is not limited by the user's network size, but pays the price in how strong the referring effect is.

Boosting viral acquisition methods with search or paid

Viral acquisition methods can be built into features that can also leverage search or paid channels to provide boosters to the viral loop.

Faire is a wholesale marketplace that lets their brands put a "Buy wholesale on Faire" button on their own websites. There is both a casual contact and incentivized element to it. The brands' customers enjoy special discounts and benefits by buying from them through Faire. The brands market their own websites (paid + SEO etc) and some of the visitors will end up seeing the button. In this case, Faire leverages on the brands' marketing efforts to indirectly boost their viral loop.