WebRTC Expert Feature

June 28, 2013

If You Intend to be Viral, Act like a Virus

It recently occurred to me how many beta trials I have signed up for that have fundamentally failed to deliver on the viral model, the gist of which is to act like a virus….attach to a living organism and replicate. Replication is what makes it all viral, with the living organism serving as transport (aka, the network), thus when a company decides to start a viral campaign the last thing it should do is manage the beta.

Let’s talk about the network side…

At this point my network of friends is a peculiar combination of E-mail, LinkedIn and Skype (although my other IM networks occasionally creep in). When companies catch my attention and then invite me into a beta I am usually willing to give them a shot, however if nobody from my network of friends is also in their beta it rapidly becomes little more than an extended demo. Also, I am not the type that asks others to try something just to try it. 

In order for a beta to set its hook it must (a) provide users with a means for finding existing contacts who are also using the system, and (b) offer a way to adequately experience the system in the event the user does not know anyone else using it. Many betas do one or none of these things, indicating their lack of recognition that people networks are the transport mechanism needed for their virus to spread.

Now this is of particular importance to the WebRTC community

If your beta needs work, solutions may lie in another key virus attribute: adaptation. Learn to use the lean principles of development, be willing to tweak the beta hard, and get a lot of feedback. If you are a WebRTC strategy, in theory you have a way to communicate. There a lot of companies that want to be first movers – to be the Big Dog, as my VC friends say. But if you are not making a land grab and trying to gain as many users as possible, then you really should not call yourself a viral marketing play.

Of course, there are other strategies. In spending time with Ben Weekes of Requestec, I was impressed how that company took on communities of Interest -- Banking and Healthcare -- and provided an extension of those services using a private implementation of WebRTC. Following the adaptation path, they have done a number of interesting things, including providing a transcoder for Flash and supporting SIP. Thus, as living organisms go, Requestec is symbiotic to their hosts.

I’ve said it already and I will say it again: the people ARE the network. And with that overriding point, my last bit of advice can only be PAY ATTENTION TO THE USER INTEFACE. A cumbersome and unfriendly interface will sure result in the host rejecting you, and then you will have no place to go.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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