Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My first attempt at developing a viral seeding strategy


I know the viral piece has been done to death, but I thought I'd share my views, and some of the stuff I've learnt from a planning perspective.

The interesting thing is just how poorly understood the process of seeding really is, that might be because there isn’t really much of a strategy needed! Nevertheless it’s pretty obvious most people are entirely clueless as to how to go about doing it.

So when I started to plan a ‘seeding strategy’ whatever that is, I thought the first thing is to understand how a virus propagates itself. A human virus invades the body and spreads by invading cells and recombining with human DNA and causes cells to replicate.

So how is this similar to a viral piece of marketing? Well only in the sense that somebody will choose to accept and then send it (infect?) on to multiple people. Really they don’t have a lot else in common. I mean lets face no-one actually wants to get a virus, people do tend to like to see virals. Virus’s change and evolve, most virals are unique stand alones. So basically the reason why people use the word is probably because it sounds cool, rather than it being that helpful a comparison.

Faris and Iain are vociferous in their arguments over what makes a good or bad viral, but what both come down to at the end of the day is whether it will affect behaviour: A viral isn’t a thing, it’s a behaviour – end of story. Think of it as natural selection, in the real world an unsuccessful virus will be beaten by the immune system and cease to be, it’s only the successful ones that cause the problems. With virals it’s the same, bad ones won’t make it.

But I do believe there is an in-between: moderate and outstanding. I was chatting with Nick Suckley of Agenda21, and he reckons 1 in every 10 virals will be a moderate success and probably 1 in 20 outstanding, there’s no real way you can tell whether you’ve created the latter, only time will tell, but there are things you can do to help achieve moderate success. This is where seeding, or getting as many people as possible to see it can help.


My un-sophisticate chart above, pretty much illustrates the idea. Most population growth patterns including viruses follow the above life cycle.

With viruses you get a slow build up, as one after the next cell is infected, before rapid exponential multi-cellular invasion, and then at some point the immune system kicks in and the virus is gradually defeated. Interestingly I think we can help to re-create this to help get a moderate viral success at least (providing it has some intrinsic worth).

2 Thoughts?:

Anonymous John Grant said...

Hi Will
Thanks for the link. On this subject have you check Alex Wipperfurth's Brand hijack? I am biased because I work a fair bit with Alex, but I still think he has modelled the whole adoption/seeding side of viral best. There's also loads of good academic studies of thought viruses/memes which give good lists of the factors which predict contagiousness/success. It's very much a live topic of interest for me as I am working on a project where insights in this area are crucial. On branded festivals, I hope you'll pop over and discuss Fruitstock at my blog (and indeed make it down) :J

11:21 pm  
Blogger Will Anderson said...

Thanks John. No I haven't but, I'll go and check Alex's site out. I spent some time searching the blogosphere, and really couldn't find anything particularly knew or helpful, so thought I'd start my own.

12:20 pm  

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