My partner, Brendan Sera-Shriar is a very convincing and unconventional person. I appreciate that about him. And he can often sway my opinion. But not in our recent debate. I would like to let you in on our opposing views and hear what you think.
The Debate: What Is Viral?
My definition of viral is the spreading of content from one person that leads to more than one person engaging with the content in some shape or form. Engagement could be a signup, a YouTube view or a purchase. There is a mathematical equation that measures the degree of virality. It’s called the viral coefficient or commonly referred to as the k-factor. A simplified version of the coefficient is:
# of customers you have sharing or referring your content X # of invitations sent out or people viewing the content X conversion rate of desired actions taken / original # of customers.
In the case of an e-commerce retailer for example, an e-tailer may send an email to its customers, asking them to share a promotion. If 100 people share it to 10 people each, of which 20% become new members as a result of the promotion, the k-factor is 2. For every person sending, 2 people sign up.
Now, true virality is a k-factor greater than 1 as I mentioned above, so viral is the sharing of one person that leads to more then one person engaging. So a viral coefficient of .10 or .50 is not viral, but still very good for some industries such as e-commerce whom are renowned for referral programs. This is still growth nonetheless, but it would be linear and not viral.
What really matters out of all of this? Understanding how to increase your viral coefficient. To me, viral is not about the # of YouTube views, social shares or even sales you yield from referrals and sharing, but how you got there. That’s why it’s important to understand your conversions so you can improve them. 100 new customers or 10,000 new customers – you still acquired them using viral techniques. Learn more from Andrew Chen, author of the Viral Loop, as he walks through understanding the engine of adoption in your viral loop.
Stay tuned for Brendan’s take on what viral is. And you can decide who’s right 😉