Grow a viral loop and reduce churn – Part 3 of 3

Apr 16

Grow a viral loop and reduce churn – Part 3 of 3

For those that missed them, here is: Part1, Part2.

Part 3: 10 questions to ask to create your viral loop

Returning to our simple viral formula:

k-factor = reach x response rate x engagement rate x share rate

we can start focusing on optimising each component. This makes it easier to track and implement, and breaks the task of viral loop construction into more easy to manage chunks.

viral loop

By asking yourself the 10 questions below, you can start to add viral elements to any App.


Optimising Share Rate

The core of the viral loop is the incentive that encourages users to share how awesome your App is. But also Sharing needs to be inherently valuable to the user. Why else would they do it?

Question 1: What is the value that sharing will provide?

There are several categories of value:

  • Sharing upgrades the user’s own App or service. Think of Dropbox, which offers users more storage in exchange for shares. It’s easy to understand and very tempting.

  • Social benefits:

    • Community effects. The user is rewarded for having large and active networks on your App. One example is the benefit of connecting and interacting with others in communications Apps like WhatsApp or Instagram. Social games such as Farmville also play on the community effect. A different example is Living Social’s Me+3 campaign, which encouraged buyers of massages to invite three friends and create an occasion.

    • Finder’s effect. The act of sharing itself may have social benefits. If your App is interesting, useful or funny, people enjoy a sense of “look what I found” when telling other people about it.

    • Personal expression. The message being shared by the App conveys a sense of achievement or connects with a message the user is trying to convey.

  • Other incentives:

    • Affiliate marketing: monetary benefits, discounts on subscription plans, coupons

    • Socially conscious options. The sharing may generate some form of social action, such as donating to a charity of their choice or planting a tree

Note that the design and functionality of the App is important in affecting how much people want to share. Effective viral elements have to be integrated throughout the App design. Even for the finder’s effect, your App or offering has to be outstanding so that people want to tell others. If you have a terrible product or don’t understand your customers, no viral loop is going to make up for that!!!

If you use StreetHawk Marketing Automation, you don’t need to hardcode some of your “share” tests into the App logic. Setting up rules to trigger based on a user having a happy experience in the App may be a great way to share. For example, if a user finally completes a tough level in a game, then now is the time to brag about it. But don’t hard-code that for every user – use StreetHawk’s rules to test different users (A/B splits), Custom Tags or Usage Rates.

Question 2: How do I further increase the perception of value?

  • The offer has to be instantly attractive, generally by being simple and easy to understand. Think again of Dropbox. People using the service can instantly understand and appreciate the value of more storage space. No elaborate scheme or explanation is required. This is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT ON MOBILE – the trigger for offer has to be timed right because people are distracted – they could be on-the-go and distracted. We know one Taxi App that asks for feedback at the same time you are finalising payment and getting out of the taxi – who has time then!!!!

  • The offer to share has to be made at the optimum times, when it really makes sense to share. This may be just after the first successful use of the App or when a milestone has been reached. Experimenting with this help you find the best times for your App. Using StreetHawk you can measure the conversion rate to a particular experiment and then optimise.

  • Offers that fit your business and values work better than generic discounts or offers. As an App developer imagine if you told the Cartier marketing manager you can do “FLASH SALES”. You will probably get this look.

Artists impression of grumpy CMO

Artists impression of grumpy CMO. (obligatory cat photo)

Question 3: How do I make sure users complete their intent to share?

  • Make sharing insanely easy and intuitive, requiring as few clicks as possible.

    • Pre-generate the share-link and message

    • Pre-select relevant recipients (use StreetHawk filtering to break into real-time segments)

      Viral Fanout by Shares. Credit: crowd

      Viral Fanout by Shares. Credit: crowd

    • Don’t request another login. Connect with the user’s contact list, email or Facebook ahead of time, so there is as little extra work required as possible at the share stage

  • Limit the number of decision points. Conduct testing to see what networks & options convert the best, so you only have to offer the optimised choice


Optimising Reach

This is the on-ramp. The more exposure you get, the more awareness you gain and the more people will continue onwards.

Question 4: How do I maximise reach?

  • Make it really easy to share widely

    • Is your App running on a phone or on a tablet? Is the user “on-the-go” or is it a “lean-back” experience. Minimize the steps to get to sharing for each situation.
    • Pre-tick the share list with all contacts or relevant/recommended contacts (maybe this is a bit evil but might also be what the user wants – companies like LinkedIn seems to do this so they must have figured out it has high conversion).

    • Enable search on the contacts list so the user can easily share to exactly who they want

    • Provide the option to manually enter additional email addresses

    • Make it possible to share on multiple networks in the same step

  • Consider where new users can discover your viral loop and begin the process

    • App Store Optimisation, online marketing, website integration, SEO, newsfeed, blogs, etc


Optimising Response Rate

Here is the other side of the value proposition. Not only has sharing have to be valuable to the sharer, but it must entice new audiences to click on it. This is sometimes known as the viral hook.

Question 5: What is the viral hook?

The viral hook cannot simply create interest and awareness that eventually leads to a sign up, it must aim to convert instantly. Only by connecting the share with the new user can the sharer claim

Viral Hook


the value they were promised. Without rewarding the sharer, future shares will dwindle.

There are three main types of viral hooks that will entice viewers to click instantly.

  • Savings driven. The user receives a limited time offer for a discount or subscription. They must claim the offer through the share, and the sense of urgency helps them decide immediately. A good example is giving both sides a coupon. Since not everyone will redeem the coupon, the cost is lower than the perceived value.

  • Value driven. The share highlights the benefits of the App and the values of the company. It may offer an exclusive initial experience that is superior to users who sign up independently. Revisiting the Dropbox example, users who sign up from a referral receive more storage than those that sign up directly. This mean keen users may even seek out a share link from a friend, and this encourages the culture of sharing.

  • Interest driven. The share highlights a unique or interesting aspect of the App or the sharer’s experience that intrigues the viewer enough to click through.


Question 6: How do I design the share to increase the conversion rate?

    • Sharer customised message: The best shares contains some personal aspect of the sharer’s experience or achievements with the App. This is especially important for interest driven viral hooks. An example of this is the SwiftKey App, which is a keyboard enhanced with predictive text. A custom message from them involves how many keystrokes you have saved.

    • Consider the sharer’s target audience. Even though a more specific audience lowers the reach of the share, it will increase the conversion rate. For example, you may not permit the user to share with everyone on their Facebook, but instead customise a greater offer for just a few select friends.

    • Consider the sharing platform What works on Facebook won’t work on Twitter and what works on those will fail on email. So not all types of media work the same across different platforms. This is just soooooo important when sending receiving on mobile. Be aware of inherent biases for platforms, and design your viral loop strategies to take advantage of these. e.g:

even small things like….

  • putting “.@username” instead of “@username” in a Twitter share has a difference in who sees the tweet.
  • Another example if you share via push on Android, you can also include specific quick buttons that appear in the notification centre (programmers can check it out here). IOS does not support this yet but could be conversion uplift on Android.
  • Reminders and follow-up. You may be able to generate follow-up or reminder emails after the initial share was made, to offer a second chance.

Question 7: Does the first time experience hook the user and draw them in?

  • The first time user experience must be highly optimised. Facebook game developers ‘Pretty Simple’ spends 30% of development time (approximately 6 months with 25 people) focused on the on-boarding tutorial and the first time user experience

    • Your App has to be immediately useful and obviously so!

    • The user interface must be high quality and intuitive

    • It has to just work

  • Sign up should be as simple as possible. Progressively gather information instead of doing it all at once. Use Facebook or Google connect if possible

  • Have a great story to tell. The user must be able to feel the essence and purpose of the App along with your company philosophy. This draws them in, creates the opportunity for delight and is very sharable

Question 8: What are the off ramps?

  • Track all usage to discover where the users churn and experiment to fix areas such as:

    • The App crashes or is broken

    • Loading takes too long

    • Initial use or sign up process is annoying

    • User meets in-App payment requirements too soon. Convince them first, then allow to pay for more

Question 9: How do you optimise your engagement to share funnel?

  • For a true viral loop, users must share during their first App launch. This encourages sharing due to discovery and ensures that users invite others before they churn

  • Reduce the number of steps in the engagement process before sharing occurs. Some Apps even push the Respond → Engage → Share part of the viral loop to Respond → Share → Engage. This works especially well if the purpose of your App is easy to understand, such as communication Apps.


Reducing churn with viral loops – combining retention with virality

Even more exciting possibilities arise from building combined retention and virality strategies.

The clearest model for this comes from social games. As a new player, you invite your friends to build your community to help each other achieve the goals of the game. They reward you for inviting as many people as possible. This is the virality element. However, another element is the free gifts and calls for help that you send to each other. This is the retention element. But these two elements are completely intertwined, because the retention mechanism works better the more friends you have giving you gifts and asking for your help. So the viral elements of the game fuel the retention elements. People who have stopped playing will be encouraged to start again by new players who need help. And by staying longer in the game, you ask more friends and help it to spread even further.

Another example is the coupons mentioned earlier as a high value reward for sharing. You provide a coupon to the sharer and a coupon to the new user. The sharer is encouraged to continue with the App, while the new user is encouraged to give it a try.


Question 10: How can you create an overall strategy of these two elements?

  • Share rewards that are based on enhancing or upgrading the App or service, such as Dropbox mentioned earlier, works particularly well. As users share more, the App becomes more and more valuable to them. The effort that was required to build up the App acts as an exit barrier as well

  • Encourage the community effect. Communication Apps have this built in. If you have invited all your friends to communicate over WhatsApp, everyone will continue using WhatsApp as  they keep receiving messages from their friends

  • Provide sharing opportunities not only at the start, but at moments when it makes sense throughout the use of the App, especially in related to milestones or achievements. The sharer’s own community will help to reinforce the achievement


Double viral loops

Double viral loops are networks built on top of other networks that are linked together in a way that when one grows, so does the other. Consider this as another possible strategy for your viral loops.

One example of a double viral loop between two platforms is eBay and PayPal. As each attracted more people, they funnelled users into the other and drove further success in both networks.

Within your own network, you can create a double loop by not only allowing old users to invite new users, but providing channels for the new users to engage old users. An example of this is with LinkedIn, where new users can tag people they have worked with, who gets sent an email to confirm. This reengages the existing user, who is then encouraged to tag their own colleagues or invite new users. The growing network of each user primes other networks for further growth.

As a final example, consider Gangnam style. It inspired many parodies and spinoffs, which in turn greatly increased the visibility and virality of the original by creating curiosity in people that was not part of the existing audience.

So as a bonus, consider how you can start building double viral loops or piggyback on a growing network for mutual benefit.

Double Viral Fatigue

Now for Caveat Emptor!!!

Double Viral Fatigue sounds like another nickname for mononucleosis! Not so. Think about the rise and demise of OMGPOP’s game Draw Something (acquired by Zynga). In just a few weeks after their acquisition, the user base dropped drastically. So they released Draw Something 2 but never recovered. The game was viral at its core but perhaps users got too tired of it too quickly – so the game and its usage had an expiry date because it fatigued the users.

Most people begrudgingly accept persistent notifications from Facebook but the question is for how long!

In summary:

Ask yourself these 10 questions to systematically increase the virality of your App. Viral loops cannot be simply tacked on as an afterthought but requires a deep integration with the overall design and strategy of the App.

However, using StreetHawk delivers flexible ways to trigger and track implementing certain portions of the viral loop – to find out more by simply getting in touch to request a demo.

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