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10 Viral Loops that Drive Sustainable Product Growthby@mailuong
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10 Viral Loops that Drive Sustainable Product Growth

by Mai LuongJune 8th, 2024
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Companies like Notion, Slack, and You Tube are built on a system of compounding growth loops. This article focuses on one particularly powerful type: viral loops. It will explain how viral loops function and explore the different forms they can take. Understanding these mechanisms can empower companies to strategically integrate them into their products to drive significant and rapid growth.
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The fastest-growing companies are built on a system of compounding growth loops.


Loops are closed systems where the outputs generated by one process can be reinvested into the inputs. Applied in the growth context, this means that the actions of one cohort of users lead to another cohort of users. The loop then repeats itself, which enables sustainable and exponential growth.


There are various types of growth loops. This article focuses on one particularly powerful type: viral loops. It will explain how viral loops function and explore the different forms they can take. Understanding these mechanisms can empower companies to integrate them into their products to drive significant and rapid growth.

How Viral Loops Work

A typical viral loop is simple. It involves users sharing a product with friends, who in turn share it with others, creating an ongoing cycle of expansion.


Viral loops are crucial due to their scalability and cost-effectiveness. Successful companies such as LinkedIn, YouTube, and Slack strategically integrated viral loops into their products to facilitate widespread adoption.

Types of Viral Loops

There are ten types of viral loops, falling into four main categories.


1. Word of Mouth Loop

Word of mouth happens when a product is so remarkable that people cannot resist telling their network about it.

This is because the product offers superior performance and solves a problem that no other product can, or users think it is cool or otherwise appealing.


Source: Notion

2. Organic Loop

Organic virality happens when one user invites another to the product through natural usage.


There are two subtypes of organic loops: Inherent and Collaborative.

Inherent Loop

In this case, users of a product will not get value from it unless other people use it as well. As a result, they invite others to adopt the product. New users sign up; the loop repeats over and over again.


Examples: Zoom (host and attend video and audio conferences), Paypal (send and request money online), Snapchat (send disappearing photos with friends)

Zoom is a viral product by nature. Users are encouraged to invite others to use the tool so that they can communicate.

Collaborative Loop

Users benefit from using the product alone, but collaborating with others brings additional value. Therefore, they invite others to use the product.


Examples: Figma (collaborate on designs), Coda (collaborate on documents), Dropbox (share files and folders)

Figma: New users sign up. They use Figma to create designs and invite co-workers to collaborate with them on the designs, thereby kickstarting the viral loop.

3. Casual Contact Loop

Users indirectly expose non-users to the product by naturally using it.


This kind of virality happens in six ways:

Embeddable Loop

Users access the product to create a digital asset and then embed it in various places on the web.


This exposes the product to countless audiences. Each embedded asset then redirects viewers back to the original source to generate new users; or viewers embed the asset on their websites, thus expanding the product’s brand awareness even further.


Examples: YouTube (videos), Instagram (photos and videos), SlideShare (documents)


Public Sharing Loop

Users use the product to create a private digital asset and then change the access permission to enable anyone with the link to view it. This makes the digital asset viewable as a site on the web or allows users to share it with people who don't use the product.


Examples: Google Doc, Notion, Dropbox

Social Sharing Loop

Users share digital assets created with the product on their social media and online channels. This exposes the product to users' existing online contacts, some of whom may have never heard of or used it before.


Examples:


  • Zoom allows users to live stream meetings to Facebook and YouTube; the live stream videos have a “Zoom” watermark at the corner.


  • Spotify users can share a song or a playlist on various social media channels.


  • Strava users can share their running/cycling routes and key activities tracked by Strava to their social media feeds.


Signature Loop

This method works well for communication tools, photo and video apps, survey products, customer support chatbots, and website/app development platforms.


  1. Users use the product to send an email to their contacts; the email includes a “sent with” signature or the product’s logo at the bottom.


Examples: “Sent via Superhuman”, “Sent from my iPhone”, Mailchimp logo at the bottom of the email


  1. Users create a digital asset with the product and download it to their device. The downloaded asset has a watermark on it.


Examples: Downloaded Tiktok videos, downloaded images created/ edited with photo editing apps


  1. Users use the product to create a feature and embed it on their website or direct people to a hosted page to use the feature. When this feature is displayed, it also includes a “powered by” signature or the product’s logo at the bottom, which then leads other people to the product.


Examples: Chatbots “powered by Drift”, websites “made in Webflow”, surveys “powered by Typeform”


Communication Loop

Users use the product to communicate with others, often via email:


  • If it’s a SaaS provider, the email comes from an address with the SaaS provider’s email subdomain, e.g. [email protected];


  • Or the email has a signature or a logo at the bottom, like the signature loop examples above.


Some email receivers go on to check out the SaaS provider and sign up, thus starting another cycle of virality.


Integration Loop

While the primary goal is to help streamline user workflows, a product’s integration with others also can expose it to other non-users.


Examples:


  • Jira - Slack integration: When users create or update issues in Jira, Jira automatically sends update notifications to team Slack channels, exposing Jira to Slack users who may have never heard of it before. These Slack users sign up for Jira and connect Jira to their other team channels, starting another cycle of virality.


  • Notion - Zendesk integration allows users to preview live Zendesk tickets, their status and other key properties in Notion while exposing Zendesk to non-Zendesk users in Notion.



4. Incentivized Loop

Users are offered incentives to invite their friends to use the product. The incentive can be financial or another type of reward.


Examples:


  • Dropbox gives both you and your friends extra storage when you refer them to Dropbox.


  • Paypal sends $10 to both you and any friends you invite.


  • Robinhood gave users priority access by referring their friends, which led to 1 million users before launch.




Those are different types of viral loops I’ve discovered. Do you know of any other interesting or novel strategies or examples I didn’t cover here? If so, I’d love to hear about them! 👇


Image Credits: Fab Lentz/ Unsplash