What Makes an Idea Viral Part 3

The spread of Microsoft?s Hotmail is one of the most oft-cited examples of intentional, commercial viral marketing. New internet users needed a free and easy way to use email, with very little commitment, Hotmail provided exactly that. And as people used Hotmail to send emails, a little signature line was attached with a link to join Hotmail.
I believe there are four major characteristics of successful viral efforts:

  1. Niche targeting
  2. Immediate user benefit or Hook
  3. Creator benefit/goal or Payload
  4. Element that ensures or promotes the spreading of the creative or Contagion

Hotmail chose a niche, new users, and found a foothold of need they could fill, this allowed them to present potential users with a desired and understood value proposition. This Hook is the mechanism that caused the users to spend their time getting into and setup with Hotmail, and building a user base is the goal of most any free web application project. Contagions can take many forms, but they very often possess two characteristics:

  1. Contagions are built into or are inherently part of either the Hook or Payload
  2. Contagions often take the form of some social functionality built into the creative?s interface

In this case the act of using Hotmail (the Payload) cause the user to spread the message to their friends, so Hotmail?s contagion has fit both of our assertions.

More case studies comin? at ya soon.