Virality is not about buttons: How to get users to share content and invite others

Virality is not a feature you can add after designing your product. It is neither adding a Like or Tweet this button nor vigorously integrating all Facebook Social Graph API features. It is instead something inherently built into your product or not. When turning an initial app idea into a product concept, ask yourself:

  1. Can my product idea ever be viral or are there certain limiting beliefs preventing people from sharing their experience?
    Platforms like dating services can even offer hugely different subscription fees per acquisition channel at the same time, because people rarely talk about this in public or recommend a specific service to friends and coworkers.
  2. Is a viral engine of growth really what works best or might I be better off with focussing on paid marketing?
    In e-commerce, companies can measure and thus optimize their conversion funnels from search intent to purchase on a cost per order basis. As long as their bid is always lower than the customer lifetime value minus all costs of service delivery, they grow the more they purchase optimized ads.

If you have figured out that viral is the way to go, stick with these questions:

  1. Is my product really worth much more when a users brings his friends—probably up to a degree where it does not work without them?
    Facebook’s entire business model relies on users generating content and convincing their friends to join and stay for easy status updates, picture sharing or organization of events and group communication.
  2. What gets a user made (feel like a hero) or paid (in respect or money) when inviting others and with which overall product and feature design can I achieve that best?
    Letting friends know about a free, easy and reliable online backup solutions makes early adopters feel special. In addition to that, Dropbox grants additional storage for every successful referral as soon as friends have signed up and installed Dropbox on one of their devices.
  • Seb_Franco

    Great insights on product design,many thanks !

  • Andreas Kwiatkowski

    You’re welcome, Sebastian!

  • Robert Collins

    Andreas, I think you’ve got right to the heart of it. Well explained in a nice concise way.