So, continuing my look at memes/virality/sharing for a new chapter for my PhD thesis-related publication, and I picked up a nice brightly coloured book that’s been on my shelf for quite some time – Adam L Penenberg’s Viral Loop from 2009 (hardback) 2010 (paperback).
It’s quite enjoyable reading a book which essentially contains quite a lot of futuristic predictions, which, 7 years later, we can see if some are coming to fruition! There’s less here about the virality of particular types of content, and more of a focus on businesses such as YouTube, Google, Facebook and – yes – MySpace – which have used a viral business model to reach their tipping point, at which they are virtually unassailable. As the introduction indicates:
The trick is they created something people really want, so much so that their customers happily spread their product for them through their own social networks of friends, family, colleagues and peers.
They are part of a ‘viral expansion loop’ – as each new user begets more new users (infinitely?), with the notion that nothing can truly go viral unless it’s something that is actually good – and that by using a product, users are giving an implicit testimonial as to use – and those that we know offer a more credible testimonial than those that we know! The book looks at the Obama campaign from 2008 – and many of its success factors, including the way that it promoted the creativity of its supporters (e.g. by sharing a supporter-created video that then gains authority/traction). Viral schemes are a particularly natural place for non-profit organisations to find themselves working within – dependent upon a compelling message and upon well planned ‘hooks’.
There’s many very interesting stories in this book, including looks both backwards and forwards, seeing how a number of companies emerged almost as a side-product of something else, and a clear indication of the passion, commitment, risk-taking and preparedness to fail that many of those now household names started out as – only eBay made money from the start – the rest all had to run huge investor losses until they started making $$.