Make my app go viral!

Maeve Taylor

Going viral isn’t a fluke. There’s a science behind it! We’re exploring what has been said and providing examples of apps that we know have followed these rules and become viral. Think Pokémon Go!, Instagram, Candy Crush… they’ve all done it in recent years and here’s how. 

The first thing that our research shows is that having a great app idea doesn’t mean it will go viral and find itself installed on everyone’s smartphones by teatime. Your app might be just what the doctor ordered but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the traction it deserves. You might have the understanding to make a great app and make it easy to use but not how to make the app addictive and hard to put down. That’s the key… the winning ingredient. 

Catch 'em all

Do you remember Pokémon Go? That went viral and became a cultural craze on its own. It’s all we heard about for weeks and weeks; people were addicted and couldn’t stop catching ‘em all! It was addictive in an ingenious way. Rather than following the crowd to become viral by incentivising users to share the app, Pokémon Go invoked nostalgic emotions. The game was sooooo 1996 and people loved it. The app allowed them to move away from the stresses of life, for a short time, and return to their childhood out in the great outdoors. But this time around, Pokémon had a twist – the newest AR technology. This invoking of emotion, the sense of nostalgia, kept users returning. It also tapped into information gap theory, the classic consumer’s fear of missing out on the latest thing.

"After three years of trying to make it viral, Vero recently exploded in popularity. Using the tools, we have at our disposal, we were able to source the reason behind its virality"

Appealing to the emotions of your users is a great way to become viral. The apps we use today have found that appealing to narcissism drives a lot of success. Think Snapchat, Instagram… they’re extremely successful and the main service of their app is to let people share their lives with friends, acquaintances, and the world, to receive recognition and praise for the something they have shared. However, as of late, there has been a lot of discussion around how these sorts of apps gloss things up and don’t show off ‘real life’. Based on these discussions, another app used this gap in the market to its advantage. Rivalling the fantasy world shown on Instagram, Vero looked at becoming the app to share the truth. 

A slow start

After three years of trying to make it viral, Vero recently exploded in popularity. Using the tools we have at our disposal, we were able to source the reason behind its virality – word of mouth on social media platforms. This shows how important word of mouth is. With all the platforms we have, to talk about what we’re doing, what we’re using… this is a critical success factor. This is known as social-proofing; people cannot validate their own actions and they look at what others are doing, to reflect a situation’s correct behaviour. This is a marketing tactic used by popular games to gain more users. Think Candy Crush and those pesky Facebook notifications you used to receive on an hourly-basis. But we also see individuals sharing their usage and achievements from an app – we’re thinking running your 5K and tracking it with Strava then sharing your success on social media for acknowledgement. But don’t worry, if you do something like this then you’re in the 46% of individuals who share content from apps on their social sites.  

Our final takeaway from our research is that the one real major thing to conquer when looking to become viral is staying power. You can get trending overnight, you become the ‘in thing’ but this doesn’t mean you’ll be hanging around for the next five, ten, or twenty years. If you don’t stay ahead of your competition or don’t move fast enough to differentiate, you won’t last…  Vine is the perfect example of this after becoming a huge success in 2012, we saw it close in 2017. It didn’t have to happen though. Listening to the people helps with your staying power. (Vine’s replacement V2 is still scheduled to surface in 2018, the branding challenge there is to shed off all the negative publicity that surrounded Vine’s closure… keep your eye out for that one!) 

Many an enthusiastic startup with a great USP has failed to capitalise on early success. Plan to keep your marketing machine rolling when the early hype begins to fade: 

  1. Keep the flow of information coming. Never consider an app as ‘done’, they are always in a state of being developed, then new updates released. With the right social media strategy, you can create the next buzz by drip-feeding new release updates and offering up tips for getting the most from the app. 
  2. React to the buzz. The lion’s share of the conversation will be between users, but you want to chip in with answering a few of the burning questions, listening and reacting to concerns or requests for new features. 
  3. Added value. You’ve got viral attention because of social, but that’s not the only place to reach people who want to know about your app. Make the corresponding website up to scratch, and that good content is easily shareable from it. 

Make a success of it

A successful app needs many ingredients, and you can’t guarantee it will become a viral sensation, but with a strong brand proposition, killer UX and a stream of engaging content distributed through the channels your target audience is active in, you’ve got a great chance. Tracking your success on social media can also extend the viral success of your app or campaign. Using tools like Talkwalker, it’s possible to track the world’s social conversations, looking for emerging trends, gaps in the market, and crucially where your competitors are failing to capitalise. You can use it as market research and it will help you develop and provide what the people want on your quest to go viral.

Here at TBT we have the tools and expertise to build social campaigns and track viral success easily and efficiently. Would you like to find out more? Get in touch with us at [email protected] or on +44 (0)1373 469270.

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