How to Build a Viral Loop

A lot of marketers, whether working in the companies that employ them or external clients, often hear this request on a regular basis; “let’s make this go viral”.

Virality isn’t something that you can just create out of thin air. Oftentimes it’s done by chance, and like all marketing efforts there’s no guarantee that anyone can make anything go viral. There is no set formula to it.

There are ways to engineer and encourage virality, however. Creating a viral loop is one way of doing this, but be warned; you should have modest expectations for results. Getting a million views to a website, video or blog post is rare, but there are ways you can turn one visitor or user into one more, and so on.

Understanding viral loops can help you increase the performance of your many marketing efforts, but before we get into that you need to understand what K Factor is.

What is K Factor?

K is short for “viral coefficient”. Let’s say you create an infographic and add it to your blog. Someone views it and shares it to their Twitter followers. From that share, one of their followers views it. You now have a K of 1.

K Factor is the way we measure the virality of our marketing efforts. Anything above 0 is good and the above example is an extreme one, so let’s be more realistic.

You get 1000 visitors to your blog post. Of those 1000, 200 of them share and get 1 visitor each. Your K Factor for this blog post is 0.2, because for every 10 people who view your blog post you get 2 new visitors.

In the B2B space making your product go viral beyond 1 is quite a challenge. This won’t be because you’re doing something wrong, but simply because this is a difficult tactic to pull off in certain industries.

With this in mind, I want to share with you three different methods for creating viral loops. The aim here is to give you some ideas and get your idea juices flowing for how you can implement viral loops into your business and marketing strategy.

1. Content Viral Loop

In the previous section, I gave you an example of how a viral loop could work when creating an infographic. It was a brief explanation, but it can work for all forms of content.

Most of our readers have blogs of their own, and a popular goal for many posts is to get it shared as much as possible. Now, most marketers tend to upload a new post and hope that it’s interesting enough to get shared organically. Then they get sorely disappointed by the results.

So how can we push social sharing further and increase the K of our blog posts? The trick here is to integrate social sharing as part of the article itself, making it as easy for the reader as possible.

Including a few “Tweetable” quotes within your article is one great way of doing this. People love to show their followers how smart they are, and by allowing them to share profound and insightful quotes related to your article, while providing a link back to it, is an enticing way to spark sharing. Make the tweetable quotes stand out and create a call-to-action that makes it easy to do.

Noah Kagan and his team have created a great tool to make this incredibly easy if you’re blogging using the WordPress platform, called the SumoMe Highlighter. This allows visitors to highlight any part of your article and share it instantly. Check it out here.

You can include these types of calls-to-action in eBooks and whitepapers related to your products, too. When it comes to sparking advocacy from your audience it’s best to incentivise and reward them for doing so, especially for sales-focused content. This tends to vary between different products and services, so you should find the best way of doing this for your business.

The essence of these examples is this; include calls-to-action that spark sharing within your content. Integrate it so it becomes a seamless part of the content itself. This way you’re not interrupting the experience by nagging on your visitors.

2. Paid Advertising Viral Loop

What if you could create a viral loop that increased the amount of traffic you received from paid advertising, while decreasing the cost per lead (CPL) at the same time? Putting a viral loop within your paid and display advertising funnel can do this.

The “pay-with-a-tweet” method is a quick and easy way of doing this. Let’s say you’re directing PPC traffic to a landing page that offers visitors to download a whitepaper or eBook. Instead of generating contact details you could ask them to pay with a tweet instead, which increases the K of your PPC campaign.

The downside to this, of course, is that you lose valuable lead information, especially further towards the bottom of the funnel. The good news is you can easily see who has tweeted the content and collect data from there. You can even use Rapportive’s API to find their email addresses if you have a developer who can help you out.

Let’s say that the transaction is at the bottom of the funnel and it’s imperative that you collect lead information. What can you do? Once the lead information has been collected, they can be upsold another valuable piece of content in exchange for a tweet.

This is powerful, as the fact they’ve already given you their information means they’re in “yes mode” and therefore highly likely to press one more button in order to receive this second offer. Now you have lead information and a potential increase in K.

3. Product Viral Loop

This is where it can get quite tricky for some companies, especially those who sell physical products, but this works exceptionally well if you can find a way to do it – especially in the tech and software industries.

I’m going to show you two examples of viral loops baked within s product. These companies either incentivize the sharing of their products or make inviting other people an integral part of the product itself.

A great example of incentivized sharing is Dropbox. If you’ve not heard of Dropbox, it’s a cloud storage solution that allows you to upload and access files from anywhere. You’re given 2.5 GB to start with, offering paid plans to expand that further.

What’s awesome about Dropbox, however, is their invitation system. For every friend that signs up via your invite link you receive an extra 500 MB in storage. Not only that, but they make it extremely easy to do so – just click a few buttons and you can instantly invite your Gmail and Facebook friends.

If you offer a product or service that people can’t live without, incentivizing an invite to improve their experience can yield a huge boost in customers.

Now, what do Basecamp, a project management solution, and FarmVille, a web-based social game, have in common? In order for these products to be truly useful users must communicate with other users. These are two completely different products, but they both use similar viral loops.

Basecamp makes working between teams and organisations easy. Everyone can see what’s going on under one roof. For an agency working with clients, this solves a huge problem. They can set up a new property for their client and invite them into it once the project starts.

This is clever because this agency are introducing Basecamp to a company that may not have heard of it before, and in order for the agency to deliver the project the client needs to use it, exposing them to a new experience. The client may then want to use Basecamp for their own purposes, and so a new customer has been generated for Basecamp.

Then we have FarmVille. If you have a Facebook profile then you’re likely familiar with the bombardment of requests to join friends in the game.

In order for a player to progress further and faster, they need to invite their friends out to help them. This is where seamless integration can come in. All players have to do is press a button, select who they want to invite into the game, and the invites are sent. For every friend that signs up, the player is rewarded and they can now communicate and co-operate with each other within the game.

These are two great examples where the viral loop has been nailed. Focus the product around relationships and communication and the K will come organically.


Remember what we said at the beginning of the article; there are no guarantees for virality. Posting a video to YouTube and expecting it to generate millions of views is unrealistic, but by engineering virality in the ways we talked about here can certainly boost your chances.

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