Virality is not born, it is made : Part - 1

ow to make products or ideas that go viral?

I had always wondered if there was a way to engineer products to go viral! The above quote by Jonah Berger caught my eye and his work inspired me to learn more about it. As humans we associate with a product or an idea more if it has been shared by a friend. Why is that? How are we naturally drawn to share a remarkable product with our friends and family?

Have you ever recommended a product that you loved to someone? By love, I don`t mean your love for rewards or cashbacks, rather your love for the way how a product solved your problem! :D

I have recommended the products like smallcase, strava, Zerodha, or Duolingo because I loved how they solved one of my problems. So, how do we design products/features or ideas that use social transmission (word of mouth) to go viral? Everyone would agree, the user/customer won over by word of mouth rarely drops off. Such a user forms a deep association with the product and becomes an ambassador for it.

One interesting way to design such viral products or ideas is to make use of the STEPPS framework. It largely focuses on one thing – 'Our love for social connections'.

[S]ocial Currency – Have you ever bought an iPhone or a MacBook and shared how amazing the product was? We love to talk about things that influence others because that’s the best way to leave a lasting impression. We want people to remember us but that`s a hard thing to accomplish. This is Social Currency! If you are reading this, you can charge me equally guilty of the same thing; trying to influence your thoughts.

[T]riggers – One-off mention are fine but that won`t cause a viral social transmission for a product. The product must keep reminding the user of their love for it, to be a part of their mind and heart because people usually talk about what is going on in their mind. Simplest examples can be the quirky push notification we see all day long from food apps!

[E]motion – You will agree that if this article evokes some emotion, you may want to like it or leave a comment. Biologically, we are wired to respond to or share things that evoke our emotions. So, if a product can evoke emotions in users, the virality quotient goes up. NEGATIVE emotions tend to work even better!! I am sure you know a lot of products around you leveraging the negative emotions.

[P]ublic – This one is intuitive. For an idea or product to go viral, it must be seen! Remember CRED`s initiative from last year? CRED launched a wonderful initiative last year to donate your cred coins to support oxygen cylinders/concentrators. It gave you a sticker or a shareable token of appreciation. The more the people shared their tokens, the more that initiative became viral.

[P]ractical Value – The value proposition of the product is the most important part because that is what decides the longevity of social transmission. If your product doesn`t have a great value-add; word of mouth will hardly help you!

[S]tories – It is the glue that brings together all the other factors in the framework. If I had written this piece without citing several examples, you wouldn`t read it till here. We love stories! We love seeing things come together in the end as it evokes emotions and makes the message more valuable.

In my next series of posts, I will discuss more about each of these factors in detail.

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**This post is inspired by Jonah Berger`s research and his book '