Network Effects, Game Mechanics and Stickiness

by Kristofer Mencák on November 7, 2010

In addition to great content (12 Viral Content Triggers), there are several incentives you can play around with to make people pass your material on.

Network effects
If you can build in network effects in your campaign, built on incentives for the users or receivers, you can also create a campaign that goes viral. And, if you succeed to combine great content with network effects, you might just have one of those spectacular campaigns everybody dream about!

In short, a network effect is something that makes doing or owning something more valuable the more other people or other friends are using it. A classic example is the fax machine. If there is only one fax and one user, there’s nothing you can do with it. If there is another user and another fax, we can at least fax each other. If there are three, the utility doubles. The more people that have it and use it, the higher the utility. If you can create the same mechanics in your campaign, you’ve got a shot at viral success.

Challenges & Competitions (Game Mechanics)
If there is something we have learnt from applications such as Farmville and location based iPhone apps such as Gowalla and Foursquare, it’s that people like to compete. Feedback mechanisms such as points, badges, leader boards, and different levels can incentivize us to do things we otherwise might not do. In a way, you could say it is classical conditioning. The rewards we get for performing the action teach us to do it again. In viral marketing, game mechanics can form the rules and incentives that encourage a receiver to pass content on.

Stickiness
Here I am not really referring to the stickiness of the message, how long you remember it. But rather I am talking about how sticky the campaign material is. If you can create reasons to come back for more of the campaign material, there is a greater chance that users also will want to pass it on to just one more person. The chances for viral spread go up. Reasons to stay longer or to come back could be to get more information or a campaign in several steps, or maybe to get more points.

So, network effects, cliffhangers and game mechanics can be a great help. A recent example of something both sticky and viral is chatroulette.com. Whether you think it’s interesting or horrible, there’s no denying it is sticky. You never know what awaits you if you click “Next” instead of closing down the browser or going to another site. Just one more click…

If you want to learn more about viral marketing and contagious messages, here is a tip for a book I really like.


Kristofer Mencák is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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