In 1997, venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson
first used the term viral marketing to describe
network-assisted word of mouth. The firm had seen the power of virality firsthand with
Hotmail, which included a vector for infection in every email—the
now-famous link at the bottom of a message that invited recipients to
get their own Hotmail account.
Decades earlier, Frank Bass, one of the founders of marketing
science, described how messages propagated out in a
marketplace. His 1969 paper, “A New Product Growth Model for Consumer
Durables,” explained how messages trickle out into a market through word
of mouth. At first, the spread starts slowly, but as more and more
people start talking about it, spread accelerates. However, as the
market becomes saturated with people who’ve heard the message, spread
slows down again. This model is represented by a characteristic
S-shape known as the Bass diffusion curve, shown in
Figure 17-1. Three certainties: death, taxes, and market saturation
When researchers compared the spread of Hotmail to the
predictions from Bass’s model, they found an almost perfect fit.
In the Virality stage, it’s time to focus on user acquisition and
growth, but keep an eye on your stickiness too.
There’s a risk that you build virality and word of mouth at the expense of engagement. Perhaps you’re bringing in new ...
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