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6 Steps to Make Your App Go Gangnam Style

You can’t predict if your app will go viral, can you? In fact, you can. Or at least you can create an app that has the potential to go viral.

Building a successful app is not a one-time event. It requires hard work and persistence. Making an app go viral is even harder. It requires a careful strategy. We would recommend the following steps in your journey to virality.

1. Start with content.

81 percent of U.S. consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts, a study by The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has found. Word of mouth is the best marketing channel. And the best way to leverage word of mouth is by using content.

You can generate word of mouth using content in one of the following ways: 1) populate your app with curated content; 2) use content to market your app on social media; 3) build tools in your app to help users create remarkable content.

People share content that can help others, boost their mood, or improve their own reputation. Jonah Berger calls these ideas practical value, emotion, and social currency.

Breaking news articles, easy meal ideas, insider’s travel guides, and the cheapest hotels in Sydney are examples of content that people will want to share to inform others.

Positive and uplifting content has more chances to generate social shares than negative content, or content that inspires low emotional arousal such as sadness or contentment.

Inspiring quotes, pictures with cute animals, and articles about innovation and science trigger high arousal emotions, such as awe, amusement, and excitement. This is the reason why this kind of content often gets shared on social media.

Dave McClure, in his presentation How to Pitch a VC, focuses on three motivators that you can use to make your app popular. They are money, sex, and power. He says that great products do one of three things: get you laid, get you paid, or get you made.

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[Source: SlideShare]

Help your users make money, help them look attractive to others, and allow them to achieve something valuable like a special status and posting permissions, or the ability to invite new members to join. Product Hunt, for example, only grants commenting and product posting permissions to those members who have been nominated by someone in the community.

2. Make people curious.

People are naturally curious. We’re interested in what’s going on in other people’s lives, what offices of popular companies look like, and why certain products become viral while others don’t.

You can create mystery around your app by withholding information and features that it offers. These features can, in fact, get more shares of the app. The fitness app Wokamon features dozens of animated monsters that grow bigger as you work out. Every calorie burnt unlocks more creatures. You can collect all of them by exercising more or by earning reward points for connecting with friends on social media through Wokamon.

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[Source: Wokamon]

Making your product scarce or exclusive can also be a great way to generate word of mouth. Eleven James doesn’t have an app yet, but it has a excellent idea: you can get a luxurious watch for a few months at a price that starts at $149/mo. Imagine how many people would want to be Eleven James’ clients once they see a Patek Phillipe watch on their friend’s wrist.

Another great idea on how to make your app go viral is to surprise your users with gifts. The to-do list Clear is popular for its hidden themes that users can discover by completing different tasks. One of these tasks is following Clear on Twitter, another is completing 100 tasks and telling friends about it by posting this news to Facebook.

Mystery makes your product desirable. If you wonder how to improve sharing of your app, create a mystery.

People are drawn to secrets. Steve Jobs knew this, and it was one reason why he insisted on secrecy of new Apple’s products until the moment of unveiling them at the MacWorld keynote.

3. Show social proof.

Social movements happen when a product or an idea generates enthusiasm among a group of people. When we see other people using an app, we are more likely to use it ourselves. Social proof helps us resolve uncertainty. Here are some tips to make your app go viral by leveraging social proof.

When users sign up for your app, display profile pictures of their friends and suggest them to follow your most active users. Motivate people to share by clearly showing how they can grow their network. Put the sharing option in front of users. They need to know how they can invite people to join.

You can learn how to implement social proof during user onboarding from the most popular social apps, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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[Source:Upquire]

If your app has been featured on a tech magazine, has won a design award, or if a celebrity is talking about it, you should mention this in your app’s description on the App Store. Quoting a respected source will add reliability and provide social proof.

Promote the most active users. You can let them set up and manage special groups, organize events, and create unique invitations. Target influencers, journalists, and celebrities. You need power users who have the most connections.

4. Reward.

People will tell everybody they know to sign up if you can incentivize them with rewards. Tangible rewards may vary. They can be divided into two types: 1) in-app currency that users can spend in exchange for physical goods, and 2) digital rewards that have no value outside the app.

The music discovery platform Tradiio allows users to invest digital currency in songs from emerging artists. If a song they invested in increases in value, they can share their stake at a profit and use the proceeds to buy actual things like Tradiio t-shirts, tote bags, and music festival tickets.

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[Source: Tradiio]

Tangible rewards could also be discounts, extra storage, free wallpapers, a free upgrade, stars and badges, and even real money. The Pact app allows users to earn cash by reaching their health goals.

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[Source: Pactapp]

Tangible rewards provide extrinsic value to users. But there is also intrinsic motivation that can be much more powerful. Intrinsic motivation is triggered by internal factors, like enjoyment that people get from doing something they love.

So, how can you use these enjoyable activities to make users share your app? Understand what motivates your users.

Some people want to print out a photo to give to their friends for New Year’s, others want to cover 30 kilometers by bike and let everybody know about their success. I want to read writing tips every morning and publish the most useful of them to my Facebook feed. Learn who your users are, and reward them by giving them what they need.

5. Earn trust.

When people feel safe and secure, they learn to trust your product. Trust builds strong relationships that are very hard to break. Trust isn’t easily won, but if you can win it, no market competition can be a threat for your product. Trust can create a popular app.  

Use push notifications and emails that cater to individual needs and offer information that is highly relevant. Making people feel cared about can dramatically increase their desire to tell others about your product.

Let your users know how their information will be used. Requesting access to a user's location services should be accompanied by a message telling users exactly how their experience will improve by allowing this access. Look at how Snapchat does it:

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[Source: The Atlantic ]

If your app allows signup only through Facebook, explain why there is no other option. One of Yalantis’s projects, a dating app for men called Bro, requires Facebook to keep the community honest and free from “bots.” This information is upfront, and is published on the app’s page in the App Store.

By letting users know how they'll benefit from sharing their personal information with you, you earn their trust. There is no word of mouth without trust.

6. Build relationships.

Making users download your app is a starting point, not an end goal. The longer people spend using your app, the more likely they are to talk about it.

You need to build relationships with users one-to-one if you want them to become involved in your app. Reach out to your users and talk to them. A friendly word or smiley can make someone's day. Appreciate your users and communicate with them regularly to keep relationships going.

People love to talk about themselves and about what they think, so ask people about themselves. Listen to them attentively. Flatter them, but don’t lie. People remember every step you take and the words you use, and they can see through deceptive and manipulative tactics.

People won't trust you unless you are willing to trust them. Tell people about yourself and what you care about. Give them a sense of who you are and why you do what you do. Tell a story. Put it on your website in the “About” section and watch people sharing it.

People want to become part of something bigger than themselves. Create a community, not just an app, and they’ll come to trust you. Build relationships with your users and you might never have to puzzle your brain over how to make your app go viral.

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