Viral marketing and viral distribution are sometimes confused. Viral marketing is about the messaging/positioning first and foremost; the call to action is in second place. Viral distribution is about the packaging of discovering, learning about / evaluating and, hopefully, using a product/service through viral channels. Viral marketing is a very broad topic. It remains more of an art than a science. Viral distribution is fairly narrow in scope and is rapidly becoming a science, as demonstrated by a VentureBeat interview with the RockYou founders (thanks to VCMike for blogging about this).
The viral loop of people inviting each other to most social networks revolves around a user posting a widget to their page and having friends see their page.
The viral loops for Facebook (there are multiple) revolve around the news feed, the mini-feed and the invite request. Not around people coming to your page and interacting with it.
The interview is worth reading less so because of the specific insight about viral distribution on Facebook and more so because of the process RockYou used to figure out how to do viral distribution on Facebook. Some of the tools included:
- Deeply understanding the demographic
- Interviews to determine specific viral flows in a given platform
- Not just porting products from one social network to another but (re-)inventing products based on the specific viral flows
- Collecting lots of data and adding feedback loops, e.g., note their comments on the strength + intensity of viral channels across sites and over time.
RockYou may have its monetization challenges but they sure have mastered the process of figuring out how to do great viral distribution. With that type of engine inside the company, good things will come out in the end.
With the rise of social infrastructure (something I’ve written about before), people who have the right combination of creative and analytical skills to take advantage of many viral distribution channels to push a new offering would become as sought after as the great analytical Web marketers of today. Facebook is just one example of a social networking platform. My friend Jeremy Liew has a good aggregate post on the topic.
The same applies to great product people who understand what it means to build on top of social infrastructure. There are already calls out to them from folks like Jeff Nolan.