Designing For Virality - A Product Manager's Guide To Growth Hacking
There is a lot that product managers can learn from mobile gaming sensations like PUBG, Call of Duty, and Clash of Clans. Apart from their intuitive interfaces, phenomenal onboarding experiences, and addictive gameplay, these games have virality effectively built into them, such that even small amounts of organic traffic can over time snowboard into millions of views and users without any ad spend. Whether your product is an enterprise IT solution, or a consumer facing app, a cloud-based SaaS tool, or a desktop solution, there are plenty of opportunities to build growth hacks directly into the user interface.
While there is no secret formula to achieve viral growth, there are certain tried-and-tested principles and best practices that should help take your product up-a-notch in this regard.
Understanding Virality & The Types of Viral Exposure
At its core virality refers to the interest and demand resulting organically from existing users, or customers of a product. Contrary to popular belief, not all social media clout, traffic, or viral exposure is the same, there are certain types of viral traffic that is infinitely more valuable than others.
Product virality can be calculated based on the number of existing customers, multiplied by the new customers invited by existing customers, using the equation mentioned below.
C(0) * k = # of customers at end of time period
The virality of a product can be classified into two main categories, with each having different use cases, and end results, for various products, audiences, niches, and sectors.
Pull Product Virality refers to existing users spreading word about your product to friends and family, and this is further subdivided into word of mouth, value virality, and exposure virality, among others.
Distribution Product Virality is a lot more valuable, given that it involves existing users spreading knowledge and awareness regarding your product with targeted networks. Examples include network virality, and incentivized referral programs.
There has been a lot of new literature surrounding virality and growth hacking in recent years, but this should help set the stage. Now that it’s done, let us dive into the core principles and practices without further ado.
Ease of Use
Customers buy your product or service to solve a problem, and its core value proposition lies in the ease at which it helps said customer solve the said problem. Any word of mouth marketing, or referral to friends, colleagues, or family only works if the product goes above and beyond in order to add value to its users.
As a result, the ease of use pretty much stays at the core of any growth marketing strategy, making UX and UI designs an essential component of your overall marketing mix.
With these concepts being pioneered by popular video games of the past decade, there is no reason not to adopt a similar playbook for your app, product, or service.
Typical characteristics of gamification include attractive color schemes, rewards, points systems, and rules to maximize engagement among users. While it may sound better suited to consumer facing apps, there are examples of enterprise solutions that have successfully executed on this front in recent years.
Rewards & Referral Programs
Creating incentives for users to share your product with their immediate network features highly in distribution virality, and often results in high value traffic.
As a result, this approach is pretty much a staple among most software startups, with billions of dollars spent each year to incentivize customers to share with their colleagues, and professional networks.
Embed Social Features
PUBG became a viral phenomenon largely because of how easy it made it for players to share their scores, achievements and gameplay with friends on social media. If you want more clout and exposure on social media, the simple solution is to make it easy for your users to share right from your app or platform.
Embedding social features has gotten a lot easier in recent years, especially with the use of a secure REST API integration, with most leading social media platforms allowing for the same.
Test, Track & Optimize
When it comes to designing for virality, there are few precise answers, and for product managers the best bet would be to constantly test new features and variants, while tracking copious amounts of data, and optimizing the product accordingly.
Eventually, you will end up with a winning formula that yields the best results, and this has been the playbook of most viral sensations in recent years.
Designing products and solutions for virality is undeniably an effective growth hack that can fundamentally supercharge your marketing. While it’s difficult, and takes time to get it right, the end results are effectively worth millions of dollars in advertising.
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