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The Best Viral Strategy: A Great App

October 24, 2010

vcmike

I was chatting yesterday with one of the early leaders in building highly viral Facebook apps. When I asked him what he was thinking of doing next, I was surprised by his answer: NOT another insanely viral app.

His explanation was instructive.  After a few years mastering the viral game, what he came to realize is that the most viral apps need to be purpose built to be viral in a particular channel. The problem this leads to, though, is that this focus on virality comes at the expense of being a great consumer experience.

The flip side is that applications that are wildly popular with users will become “viral” (or at least grow rapidly) in their own right, even if not strictly optimized for it.  Mint.com is a great example, as is well described in this Quora thread.

The social app developer ecosystem is, albeit gradually, waking up to this reality.  To be sure, plenty of energy is going into working the viral channels; but at the same time I am seeing more and more developers realizing that an overemphasis on virality delivers more short term gain than longterm value creation.

4 Comments

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  1. October 24, 2010

    Right on. What most people call (or called) virality is just an abuse of communication channels!

  2. October 25, 2010

    Of course! So good to hear this — especially since as a Founder of a company that serves a specific, and highly targeted (but large) audience, creating a [social] app and product for this vertical has been winning me blank and disapproving looks since GOTRIbal’s inception.

    Guess we all just love hearing that our theories about some business practices have some believers besides ourselves.

    Onward and upward!
    Tanya

  3. October 31, 2010

    I think it’s true of both consumer and B2B apps. Their is only so much mindshare and much of the so called viral isn’t purposeful. But to you point, to be cross channel or cross vertical you need to have purpose and an application that speaks to simply, or elegantly speaks to need and the UX (as you mentioned with mint.com). Heck…. for that matter, an app may eventually want to make money, and purpose is key.

    Curt Raffi

  4. January 5, 2012

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