To give you a preview of this post, what you will learn is that there are two key parameters that drive how viral growth happens, the Viral Coefficient, and the Viral Cycle Time. To fully illustrate the arguments, I have included two spreadsheet models (embedded) that you can play with interactively to see how viral growth works. There is a risk with this level of depth, that some readers will find this too technical, and if you find yourself reacting that way, may I recommend that you jump straight to the conclusion, which is under the heading Lessons Learned towards the bottom of the article.
Real Estate Crowdsourcing – After selling my SF rental house in mid-2017 for 30X annual gross rent, I reinvested $550,000 of the proceeds ($810,000 total) in real estate crowdfunding, based in San Francisco. My goal is to take advantage of cheaper heartland real estate with much higher net rental yields (8% – 12% vs. 2% – 3.5% in SF) and diversify away from expensive coastal city real estate which is now under pressure due to new tax policy which limits SALT deduction to $10,000 and new mortgage interest deduction on mortgages of $750,000 from $1,000,000 for 2018 and beyond.
Gives away valuable products or services. “Free” is the most powerful word in a marketer’s vocabulary. Most viral marketing programs give away valuable products or services to attract attention. Free email services, free information, free “cool” buttons, free software programs that perform powerful functions but not as much as you get in the “pro” version. “Cheap” or “inexpensive” may generate a wave of interest, but “free” will usually do it much faster.
But you have to admire the virus. It has a way of living in secrecy until it is so numerous that it wins by sheer weight of numbers. It piggybacks on other hosts and uses their resources to increase its tribe. And in the right environment, it grows exponentially. A virus doesn’t even have to mate. It just replicates again and again, doubling with each iteration.
Active income, on the other hand, involves earning money in exchange for a service. It could be a salary, an hourly wage, commissions, or tips. It’s essentially a trade of your time for a fixed dollar amount. Most people choose to live this way, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, as long as you understand that there will be a limit to how much money you can realistically earn.
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YouTube brought in nearly $4 billion in estimated ad revenue in 2018. So you can earn a potentially large income by uploading videos to the platform and then watching those ad dollars roll in. You may need or want to upload videos regularly, which isn’t especially passive. But you don’t need to provide a specific product or service directly to customers.
The most famous expressions of viral marketing are videos and ads. Its strength comes from the fact that people like to share information they find fun and interesting with others and send it to each other via social media. For instance, think of ads in the form of funny videos, images, texts or an interactive Flash game. It can be risky though. People generally don’t like to forward messages that are clearly commercial. It can also happen that the wrong audience is approached and the message doesn’t reach the right people. That could be bad for public relations.
If you offered Prismacolor pencils in your online store, you have the option of promoting the GIF through your own social channels in an attempt to get engagement from your own audience using a piece of content that is proven to be viral with general audiences. Depending on the creator of the content, you may be able to upload the content to your channels directly to share or you may need to re-share the content from the creator’s original social post, YouTube channel, website, or other direct link. Your post (or re-share) would include a link to Prismacolor pencils for sale in your online store.
Exploits common motivations and behaviors. Clever viral marketing plans take advantage of common human motivations. What proliferated “Netscape Now” buttons in the early days of the web? The desire to be cool. Greed drives people. So does the hunger to be popular, loved, and understood. The resulting urge to communicate produces millions of websites and billions of email messages. Design a marketing strategy that builds on common motivations and behaviors for its transmission, and you have a winner.
A truly viral product emerged from targeting a truly viral problem in the digital age, known as attention deficit disorder. Allowing people globally to channel their nervousness into an entertaining handheld device has allowed for the viral spread of Fidget Spinners. The products modest beginnings spread virally through school children and later through to adults. We started seeing fidget spinners in social media, memes with fidget spinners, fidget spinners distracting people while crossing the street, and of course, fidget spinners in the impulse purchase section of your local supermarket. This little product achieved a viral marketing status through providing a ‘solution’ to a viral problem and bringing about a world full of fidgetty temptation.