The Anatomy of a Viral Loop

author: Carina date: January 5, 2011

What is a viral loop?

A viral loop is the process by which a user of an application brings in another user. It’s called a loop because it’s a kind of positive feedback cycle — each user goes through the same process to bring in a new user, who then also goes through that process.

We want to identify and understand the steps of this process, so that we can construct a user flow that will maximize the likelihood of the user sharing that content.

Here are the 4 basic conversion steps we’ve abstracted from our viral apps:

1. See
Conversion: Piece of content sent -> Receiver’s sees content
Optimization factors: Eye Catching, Universal Topic, High Emotion Topic

Once the content has been sent to the user, or added to the user’s news feed, whatever the channel, the content must pass the first barrier to being passed along: it must be seen and noticed by the user. A Facebook news feed story, for example, might go unnoticed if it is purely text. Adding the right graphic will help facilitate attention to the story.

2. Click
Conversion: Receiver’s sees content -> Receiver clicks into or engages with content
Optimization Factors: Low barrier to consumption, Precise Text, Clear Action, Immediacy

Once a user has noticed the content, she must decide to engage with it, to spend time with it. A low barrier to consumption could mean an embedded video that can be viewed without leaving the page, or a concise message so that the user quickly understands the message without getting confused. Immediacy can also persuade a user to engage with the content — for example, a special sale that ends today.

3. Desire to Share
Conversion: User has engaged with content -> User wants to share content
Optimization factors: Trait Signaling, Emotional Venting, Conversation Starters

Why do people share? This is the trickiest conversion point to understand. In our apps, we’ve found three principle roles that sharing plays for users. Read more about them in this post.

4. Share
Conversion: User wants to share -> User shares
Optimization factors: Clear option to share, Sharing is suggested by app, Channel facilitates sharing

Part of persuading a user to share a piece of content is making it dead simple and easy to share. If sharing happens in one click, it is more likely to happen than if it requires copying and pasting a link.

Learn more behind the science of virality in this free webinar: The Secrets of Virality

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  • Momentus Media | We Make Brands Viral

    [...] written extensively about the “viral loop”. The viral loop describes how content flows [...]

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