Undeniably Viral

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Practically everyone has heard of "virality" regarding products and internet memes, and many of us wish we could use it to make our products more popular. Some even try to make our creations go viral. And yet, practically nobody really understands how to do this. "Product Guy" Josh Elman informs us that part of the problem is our "naïve understanding of virality," and goes on to describe five kinds. His description of the first, word-of-mouth virality, will be a trip down memory lane for many:

This one is straightforward: It's simply a product being so good that people can't help telling their friends about it. For example, when Google was just taking off, people would notice you searching on Alta Vista or Infoseek or another search engine and they'd tell you "use Google, the search is so much better." So the next time you did a search, you'd try it, and pretty soon you'd be telling others about it too.
I did exactly this, back when Google was just a page with a search box. I'd used Excite before, but had become frustrated when, for whatever reason, it stopped handling simple Boolean searches properly. Google didn't, to my knowledge then, have all the functionality I was looking for, but it was fast and at least gave me results I could use. I mentioned it to my father-in-law under similar circumstances to the above and was glad to see him still using it months later. Google was so good he even mentioned off hand that I'd recommended it to him.

Part of making anything popular is, as Steve Martin once put it, is for it to "[b]e undeniably good," and Google search certainly fit that description then. But Elman elaborates a bit more on what made it easy for Google -- and other now-well-known products -- to become much better-known. He notes, for this example, how easy it is to remember (and spell) Google. And Elman does a similar type of analysis for four other kinds of virality.

If you do or make something that's undeniably good, but only a select few seem to realize this, Josh Elman may just be able to help you out.

-- CAV

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