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Getting a consumer internet service to critical mass – some more thoughts

The following definition of a viral internet service is from Nisan of StartUp Review, but posted on Mashable:

A viral Internet service is one where each new user must involve friends to derive personal value from the service. This is best exhibited by communication and hyper-social services.

He gives Skype and Xfire (an IM service for gamers) as examples.  To get value out of either of those services the user must ensure that their friends have also downloaded the client.  Not just been told about the service, but actually downloaded the client.

As Nisan also points out:

the majority of consumer Internet sites don’t lend themselves to viral distribution ….. the user does not need to tell friends about the service to derive their own personal value from it ….. This is the same problem that I believe many new vertical search engines suffer from.

His solution for services that aren’t inherently viral is to leverage natural search.  Build up the inbound links so you rank highly in the organic listings and then you will hopefully get into a virtuous circle of good postion, more traffic, more links, better position etc.  Wikipedia is perhaps the best example of this in operation, although Digg did it much more quickly.

These are all very wise words.  The definition of viral is particularly helpful – it is a term that is much overused in business plans (almost as much as “social networking features”).

In a vain effort to add some value to Nisan’s thoughts I would add that the notion of marketing a service to critical mass is also important.

With social networks that has meant finding creative ways to have enough users on the site that the experience is meaningful for new arrivals.  I have heard rumours that MySpace paid ‘nice looking ladies’ tens of thousands of dollars to bring their thousands of online friends to their site in the early days.  Similarly as I have reported before WAYN used CPA advertising to get the initial critical mass of members and Bebo leveraged its common heritage with BirthdayAlarm to similar effect.

Distribution partners are also an important part of the mix – Indeed Nisan himself has written before about the importance of distribution partners for MySpace and Skype.

 

  • http://blog.blendah.com To

    Well done.. I think a big contributing factor to any success online is some kind of personal connection has been made wether it be from a service or the product to the consumer.

    Their are so many cookie cutter sites out there and I feel the ones that stand out have their own personalty which translates into a communication bridge.

  • http://blog.blendah.com To

    Well done.. I think a big contributing factor to any success online is some kind of personal connection has been made wether it be from a service or the product to the consumer.

    Their are so many cookie cutter sites out there and I feel the ones that stand out have their own personalty which translates into a communication bridge.

  • nic

    Thanks To – personal connection is definitely important, and I should have mentioned it. The members of many successful sites feel strong associations with the community and aspire to have high status within it.

    A common way of doing this is to have a people at the centre of the community that the members aspire to be like and meet.

  • nic

    Thanks To – personal connection is definitely important, and I should have mentioned it. The members of many successful sites feel strong associations with the community and aspire to have high status within it.

    A common way of doing this is to have a people at the centre of the community that the members aspire to be like and meet.