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Generating Network Effects
The subtle art of virality
How does a product go viral? Well, mathematically, there's always some kind of exponential curve involved.
If you spend $1 on marketing, and as a result, you acquire 1 new user (or customer), then spending $100 will (in a perfect world) get you 100 users. The growth here is quite linear.
But, if even a single user shares your product with their network, and then someone in that network shares it with their network, you can quickly end up with an exponential curve of growth.
This is a network effect. Where every new user acquired can lead to 2 or more further users. With social media and the Internet, this can even be over 100.
Now we are talking.
The result is viral/exponential growth which means you would have to spend much less on marketing while, at the same time, witnessing explosive growth.
Now let's say you drop your marketing budget down to zero or don't have one, to begin with. This would still work. Every user acquired organically would lead to several more users. Before you know it, the network effect will ignite exponential growth. You can start with small numbers and end up with very large ones.
And if you pair that with a revenue-generating product with low overhead, this can lead to an exponential income stream.
That's one way to become financially free relatively fast while starting out with little capital.
It's much easier to see this trend in technology companies, as the Internet leans naturally towards infinite scale.
But physical products have been generating network effects for years as well. Think of products with strong brands such as Apple, Disney, Nike, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and McDonald's, to name a few.
Many of them did this with unique products, strong brand images, and highly shareable ads (think Hollywood-style commercials with a great story, character, or message behind them).
So how do you build a product that has the potential to go viral?
1. Create something worth sharing
The only way a product can go viral is if it’s truly worth sharing and people are excited to share it with their network. This is really the essence of it.
If you create ads (you can create these yourself using Canva, by the way), add a story or humor element to them. This can make them more shareable on social media as well.
2. Double down on quality
And become an avid user and fan of your product.
This would require hyper-focusing on quality and tiny details to create something that would stand out from the crowd and that you would genuinely want to use and share with your friends.
If the quality isn't outstanding or you yourself wouldn't want to share your product, then it's unlikely the market will either.
3. Let people share it
By making it as easy as possible for your users to share your product. If it's an app, add a share button within the user interface.
If it's a web page, you can subtly encourage readers to share your content. For example:
If you are enjoying this newsletter, then please please please share it with your friends :)
If it's a physical product, creating a companion digital product or captivating ads that can be shared on the Internet can be an additional asset.
Referral or affiliate systems can be a good option too, where you give users rewards for referring their friends. But this can also backfire as well and cause people to share something just to get the rewards. This can downgrade your overall brand image in the long run by overexposing your product to the wrong audience and coming across as network spam. You wouldn’t want that.
As you can see, there is a subtle art to this, and you don’t want to be pushing people to share your product. It should really just happen naturally. Your job is to just make it easier for them to do so.
4. Let the output share itself
Add an element that makes the product share itself on top of it being shared by others.
For example, you can also add a sleek logo to the output of your app to spread brand awareness. The dancing TikTok logo in generated videos is an example of this and is kind of like the digital equivalent of the Starbucks logo on coffee cups. This can help build social proof.
The Wordle screenshot is another example, where the number of steps and the secret path you took to reach the result are both embedded in the screenshot itself. This gets people excited to share their results as they had a sense of achievement. It’s also unique to the app and, in a way, becomes synonymous with the logo.
To reiterate, people will only share your product if it’s genuinely worth sharing and top quality.
Trying to spread a sub-par product might get you short-term results but simply won't fly in the long term. The world is full of noise, and the only thing which stands out today is quality. People simply want to share what they are truly passionate about. Their reputation is at stake, after all.
In contrast, if your product has an inspiring mission and adds value to the world, people will likely want to share it on their own. So whenever in doubt, choose good and create something that can move the world forward while also taking advantage of network effects to grow.
That is how you make an impact.
Thank you for reading, and congrats on making it this far. You are going places!
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And, of course, if you are enjoying this newsletter, feel free to share it with your network *wink*. I wish you all the best. To infinity and beyond! :)