Building Products That Go Viral, Part III

The third of four posts that comprise I speech I gave at Yeti Zen on March 23. To read the first installment, click here.

In considering virality, we start with a player base  and 5 variables:

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To be clear, the “pool” here are players already playing the game.

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This is about turning a user into a carrier. That is to say, you want your users to reach out to their social network and tell their friends to check out this game. A carrier is someone who talks about the game (in any way). Realistically,  most of your “carriers” will have a 100 Facebook friends, 100 Twitter followers. Each of these carriers will tweet or post once or twice about your game– at which point, there is a chance that a new contact will be infected (which, in this scenario, is good). But the average user of social media is not going to infect thousands of friends. You want to make sure that you have a lot of carriers, each doing a little bit of infection.

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A few of your carriers are going to be above-average users of social media.  A lot of people talk about getting people to post more frequently. That’s good. It’s also good to acknowledge how many friends someone has.  How do we find and infect those carriers who have, you know,  800 Facebook friends and 1,200 Twitter followers? One of the lessons I’ve learned about free-to-play casual games has been not to put limits on how much someone can spend. Also be careful not to put limits on how much someone can achieve simply by being social. Reward sociality!

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This speaks to the quality of the carrier…..or at least whether or not the carrier is compelling. If I have a Facebook friend that posts twice a day about some new meme or game, the chances are high that I will not pay much attention to every single post (and unless they are really really funny, I will  block this particular friend). On the other hand, if someone I respect posts about a game, I am much more likely to pay attention. Another way to increase the likelihood of infection is through incentivized posts. If my friend tells me that if I play this game, I will get X, I will be that much more likely to play the game.

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Is your game fun? Does it compel sustained interest? Does it do what its players want it to do? Does it answer the needs/desires of your targeted demographic? How might adding content to increase the carrier duration effect your virality? This is particularly pertinent when you are deciding how to allocate your resources. Do you spend time and money on advertising? Or do you spend time and money making a more content-rich game…aka a game that may compel more sustained interest, and consequently, have a higher K factor?

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Hey! Where have you been?

If your players leave, is there an explicit mode by which they get drawn back in? For example, perhaps when a player leaves, the game sends push notifications, calling them to return.  Of course, this could just get annoying. To really  build reinfection into the game, make sure the players rely on each other. Game mechanics can be used to create strong social ties. Personal social ties, in turn,  will create a much stronger glue then automated ping notifications. For example,  a little while ago,  I tried to leave World of Warcraft, a game which uses interdependency for just this purpose.  Because I was part of a guild, as soon as I left, I began receiving emails from my guild mates  asking me to come back.  These personal emails compelled me to return.

Next post, part IV  So… does this help us make decisions?

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