Thursday, 5 November 2009

'Viral Loop' by Adam L. Penenberg - The Power Of Pass-It-On

At the Adtech London conference I presented my model of 'the Destination and the Conversation' and spoke about how everything now works together.

Traditionally it was (primarily) about pushing people to a Destination (a website, a microsite etc) through broadcasting a message along the lines of 'go here now!' However, the prolification of social platforms on the web has now added a second element to marketing, 'the Conversation.' The Conversation is where people discuss, share and interact in online social spaces - from blogs to Facebook to YouTube etc.

The Destination and The Conversation - Nick BurcherThe Destination and The Conversation from my presentation to Adtech
(click for larger / higher res image)

Brands are now able to directly participate in and leverage this Conversation. This delivers traffic to the Destination, but in a more subtle and potentially engaging way than traditional broadcast messaging.

The real value though comes from a kind of built in, self-fulfilling loop. The more people who go to the Destination, the more prominently it features in the Conversation and thus the more people go to the Destination and so on (all the time improving Search Engine visibility and further enhancing 'discoverability.')

I go into more depth on how these mechanics work on a previous post about The Destination and The Conversation here.

This idea of a continuous loop is also a key component of a new book by Adam L Penenberg - 'Viral Loop: The Power of Pass-it-on.'

Viral Loop says 'the potential of pass-it-on lay unrealised until forward-thinking Web companies got hold of it and created their own, mightily efficient, money-spinning model known as Viral Loop - the ability to grow a company exponentially because the customers themselves spread it.'

Viral Loop is an interesting read, featuring a multitude of examples and first hand accounts as well as occassional theories on virality measures. The text covers examples of early viral loop businesses such as Ponzi schemes and Tupperware, before arriving at the current day with discussions of social networks and the like.

In some ways Viral Loop also acts as a history of Web 2.0, analysing some of the online success stories from recent years. Penenberg goes into depth on sites like Hot Or Not, looks at the origins of Hotmail (and how the Hotmail mesage footer spread the service), looks at Ebay and Paypal, how Birthday Alarm evolved into Bebo, browser wars and Marc Andreesen (charting his progress from Mosaic designer to Ning founder) before moving on to more recent developments such as Friendster, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

The book is also peppered with examples of how different people have harnessed the Viral Loop to gain attention for their products and creations. For example how independent film makers harnessed the Loop to gain attention for films like 'Four Eyed Monsters' and 'Open Water' or highlighting activity such as the Mentos / Diet Coke YouTube experiments - all set against the context of the Loop.

Furthermore, in its promotional campaign Viral Loop tries to practice what it preaches. The book has been serialised in Wired UK, has seen guest posts penned for sites like Techcrunch and Viral Loop has a trailer on YouTube here:

Viral Loop is also represented through specially created social applications. The Social Networking Application 'How Much Are You Worth to Facebook and MySpace?' can be accessed at and a Viral Loop Predictions App for iPhone can be downloaded through iTunes or from - with everything highlighted by the author on his @Penenberg Twitter account.

I recommend Viral Loop to anyone working in or around online / social marketing. The book provides a wealth of examples showing how the Loop has been used, as well as outlining some frameworks for planning / analysing viral distribution (viral co-efficients etc.)

A good read!

Related posts

My presentation to Adtech London - 'The Destination and The Conversation'

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