Debunking Going Viral

Most of you know that Majestyk has built innovative apps for Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Chevy, Pepsi and Citi, but we’ve also worked with many, many entrepreneurs that are building a brand new technology to enter the market with.

Not only do we build the app, but we help Founders scale their business, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten the request from Founders for us to help them go “viral”.

Now this makes sense, and no one can knock you for setting the bar high! The thing is that “going viral” occupies the same space as these unicorn companies you hear about: we all have this notion that there’s some magic to it, some ethereal, untouchable factor that supersedes our human understanding. I’m here to tell you that the goal of exponential growth — growth so exponential that it’s viewed as having gone viral — is attainable, measurable and quantifiable. Let’s debunk going viral. Here are 5 strategies I’d recommend.


Word-of-mouth is absolutely something you can strategically motivate. The first step is to know your audience and create a voice and visual brand that they immediately respond to. That ones a no-brainer, but a lot of people forget step two, which is to make your content easily shareable. That means carefully crafting language that your fans would love to post on their own pages. For example, instead of advertising how many followers or downloads you just reached, advertise a new city you’re in, a product you’ve added or a feature you’ve just launched for your users. E.g “Look what you can do with the latest version of xyz platform!” Act almost as if you’re speaking as a follower of yours who’s reallyyyy into what you’re building. That way, users are willing to share your content as if it’s their own, because it's written in their own voice. Then, have very obvious buttons and CTAs that entice users to share your content to their own page. For bonus points, you can incentivize with a giveaway, prize or competition for people that either share your content or get their friends on board. People love the concept of “winning” stuff. It makes them feel special, so play into that.

Information Gap Theory

Information Gap Theory is the human desire to close the gap between what a person knows and what they want to know. The imperative part of that sentence is the want to know part, it’s not just what a person doesn’t know. Meaning that you can’t just post any brain teaser expecting it to get traction. Do a deep-dive into your user’s psyche — figure out what makes them tick, and then offer them valuable insights they didn’t even know they needed.

How many of us have taken those silly Buzzfeed quizzes on what Crayola color we are, or what Disney character we’re most like? Reel them in with info that’s interesting to them, and then get them excited enough to promote it and involve their friends. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a quiz, that’s a lot to put together. Offering up a teaser for a tidbit of information your user base would love to know is enough. If you do this consistently, people will continue to come back and look to you as a great source of new information that pertains to them. The kicker comes in when you know that newsworthy information is 72% more likely to be shared, so additional promotion of your brand is even greater. 

Create a cult

When people feel they’re rallying behind a vision, it makes it so that their association with your brand contributes to their personal sense of purpose, which relates their value systems, which brings meaning to their participation in your brand activities. They feel that they’re part of something bigger. Your brand is a place where they personally belong. They’re making a statement by aligning with it. From here, Ambassador programs are born. With the adhesion to your brand vision, people will be begging to represent you, to spread the good word and to be on-the-ground evangelistis. The best part is that it’s usually for free. Now your marketing team just expanded 10000x!

It’s the people that are rooted in the local communities that are really going to shift people’s behavior and get people’s attention.

It’s like a super-advanced referral program, and you’ll see the numbers to prove it. An example: The women’s lingerie brand Lively was put on the map by their Ambassador program. They now have over 100,000 of them, but the Ambassadors don’t know that. Each one feels special, they feel like they’re part of something. Lively launched their Ambassador program 3 years ago using one line: “For women with wild hearts and boss brains.” Who couldn’t get behind that?! An update on how that’s going: They were acquired for $85 Million last year. Pretty impressive.

Intentional relationship-creating

Your relationship with your users shouldn’t be one-sided. You need to involve them thoroughly in the dialogue. Do things like asking their individualized feedback on your product, give them options for the merch you send them, remember their requests and comments and reference them as you have additional conversations with them. This is where you start to hear the words “customization” or “personalization” a lot. Most people pay attention to this from a product perspective, but few take the time to customize their marketing efforts to an exact user.

You might see people segmenting their audiences, and speaking differently to different demographics, but few try to gain grassroots momentum but minutely personalizing outreach to an individual user. Now, I know that sounds excessive, you can’t hire one relationship manager for each user, so try this: define your power users. Data shows that repeat purchases make up only 8% of customers, however, they contribute up to 40% of all sales. It’s the same thing with your users. Identify your power users, target them directly, and make sure you have your white glove service ready.

Now, these are different users than your Ambassadors, if some of y’all might be thinking that this engagement sounds a bit similar. The difference here is that Ambassadors are people with a big following and a loud voice that are willing and ready to advocate for you. Your power users can fly under the radar, but keep your user retention numbers right where you want them, ensuring that you don’t lose track of your core people while you’re going out doing all these promotions to increase your user base. The lesson is to not let User Acquisition get in the way of User Retention.

Add a little humor

Last but not least, make it funny, or even make it weird! Our brains are actually wired to seek out novelty, or things that are unique. That’s why things that don’t quite go with the norm catch your eye. Being original is more than just something to brag about, it's actually scientifically proven to get you more attention, and in this case, traction. Sometimes markets can be saturated and it can be difficult to find a way to make yourself stand out, but I promise with a little creativity you can find a way.

That said, I might have a suggestion for one way you can do that: Tell a little joke maybe. Studies show that humorous content has a 66% higher likelihood of getting shared. Because who doesn’t like a laugh? See if you can hire some fancy copywriters and add some fun elements to your brand outreach. Make it stand out, make it funny, and of course, always make it on brand.

Those are just a few things you can proactively do to see amazing growth of your app and maybe even reach that “viral” status. The real key here is about testing out all these strategies and seeing what works best for your company and your user.

This post is from the Virtual SpeakHer event on 7/22/20

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