Startup Marketing Plan: Get Your Viral On


So you want to make your product or company go viral. The first thing to know is you don’t choose viral; viral chooses you. The best you can do as a marketer is position something to have viral potential. This is accomplished by positioning your product in three ways:

  1. Psychological Undercurrent
  2. Social Value Proposition
  3. Maneuverability

Psychological Undercurrent.

Sounds almost military, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Psyops and captology relate to the art of influence. If you want something to become viral you need to appeal to that which is cool, unique, novel, sexy, exclusive or shocking. These are the things that make an impression. Things that people will rally behind and ultimately share.

Social Value Proposition.

No matter what you are offering, it must have some value. Without value you cannot reach a sustainable viral loop. Therefore, whatever you are offering (whether a product, a meme, music, etc) needs to provide value. People need to be able to understand what it is you are pitching them and they need a compelling personal reason to try it – that’s called a value proposition.

However, viral is more than value proposition – it’s social value proposition. Someone has tried it, found value personally, and now they want to share it with others. The best viral things get better the more they are shared: network economics. In the case of web social networks like Ning, it’s straightforward. The more people in your network, the more people you have to interact with. However, other virality is more elusive. Why do people share music? Maybe they seek to justify their own sense of good taste? Maybe they wish to be perceived as a trendsetter.


You can only share what is inherently sharable. In order for someone to share something they must be able to take it and send it to someone else. In the case of an MP3, it can be shared any number of ways: a link to a website, sent as a file over IM, burned onto a CD or uploaded to Muxtape. Youtube took off when they allowed people to take their video player and add it to someone’s myspace profile. In the case of something more abstract, like a political meme, one must use appeal outside of technology and physical dimensions.


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