18 January 2017

How viral growth works

Hey, Pieter here…

I’m writing you this post, because I want to share with you the mechanics of how “Viral Growth” works for a new product or startup business. That matters, because even though very few people realise it, viral growth is the backbone of all growth marketing.

In fact…

Viral growth is the origin of all growth hacking efforts

That might sound outrageous, but it’s true. If you want to understand growth hacking, you need to understand how virality works.

And of course if you want to “go viral” it really helps to understand the exact mechanics of how viral growth works. Understanding how virality works is really beneficial for non-viral products too, but more on that later.

(In the end of this article I’ll blow your mind by showing you that all organic growth is essentially viral growth)


What I’ll show you in this article: Define what ‘viral growth’ means Because that’s Show you examples/case studies of viral growth With traditional examples, so you can easily wrap your head around it. Breakdown of virality into a systematic blueprint You’ll need this, so you can create a blueprint for your own “viral growth engine” in the future. Which levers you can pull to engineer your virality In which I give you the toolbox you need to optimise your own viral growth, no matter what sort of business you’re in. Show you how to get virality started Through a process called “ramping on” Decide if traditional virality is a good fit for your company (spoiler: probably not!) Show you the ‘other way’ to achieve viral growth Because there is a much easier path, and I believe that “engineered virality” is within reach for most (if not all) early-stage startup companies. At the end, you’ll have a super good grip on how viral growth works. And that’ll help you build better products that grow (much) faster.

So what is viral growth, anyway? So glad you asked.

The concept of viral growth refers to the method of growth that a virus uses to spread throughout a population.

My personal “picture” is — of course — a zombie uprising. We all know how that works: a lethal zombie-virus escapes from the top secret laboratory, and somehow manages to “infect” someone. That someone infects 2 or 3 other people, and…

Next thing you know, you need intervention by Angelina Jolie with a double-barreled shotgun to keep the hordes away

How did that happen?

Viral growth.

Once the virus is out, it easily infects other people. And all those people turn into Zombies, too. And those zombies, they also infect other people. Etc. etc.

For a new product or startup business, viral growth works just the same: A few users start using a new social networking app.

They like it. It’s addictive. They get “hooked” (zombies!)

The next morning, they tell their friends about it. They spread the disease to them, if you will. Of course, those friends also like it. Soon, they also get hooked.

Now, those friends are telling their friends.

Etcetera. Etcetera.


Now the funny thing is…

this “Etcetera. Etcetera.” part is actually the most important part of viral growth! That’s where the magic happens!

Viral growth always happens because a simple sort of “loop” repeats itself over and over. That loop is called a “viral loop”, and it’s at the very core of how viral growth works (and also how you can engineer viral growth in your own startup. Which we’ll get to in a second…)