What Makes An App Go Viral?

go viral

“A viral app is the highest achievement on iTunes and Google Play. It’s an app that customers eagerly share across the Internet, through social networks, email, chat and word of mouth. It’s like rocket fuel, and it is the best case scenario for an app developer because word of mouth is far more powerful than any paid advertising. Ad clutter is everywhere, and people just ignore it.” – Smashing Magazine.

The hundreds of success stories of apps that went viral and generated millions in revenue have made mobile app development hot nowadays. Developing an app is deceptively simple – get the app idea that you think would change the world, develop it – or hire someone to develop it if you can’t and then make a million bucks from it, right? Wrong! Starting the app is easy, finishing it will be a little harder, but getting people to use your app is where a lot of businesses fail. After all, if it was easy, we’d all be millionaires.

Attaining viral status involves interaction with people and getting them to participate in something. It’s not just a marketing strategy that you execute after your app is launched. It must be properly thought out and then built into your app right from the start. If your app must go viral, there are 4 things it must do.

It must have something of value to share.

It must be easy for users to share and friends to join

There must be a reward for sharing and incentives to bring users back.

More value must be created as more people use the app.

A lot of luck is involved, but the tips below can help you break through. Keep in mind that perseverance is also necessary if your app must go viral, so giving up after a few tries is not the way to go.

  1. Have a strong name: When your app is at the working prototype stage, the next step is a name that is a good representation of what the app does. Guidelines for an app name are a name that is short, descriptive and unique. Stay away from names that sound too ordinary or too much like another, more popular app. Some good names are Flipboard, Instagram and Dropbox. This is not to say that apps with bad names can’t go viral, but a bad name will make it harder to get traction in the early stages. A good name will make your app stick easily in people’s minds, make it easy to be spread by mouth and also be eye-catching.
  2. Have an awesome User Experience: There are two things that every app that ever went viral have at least one of. It solved a problem that no other app solved or it had a better user experience than other apps that did the same thing. With the millions of apps on stores on different mobile platforms, you would have a better chance of making your app go viral if you pursued user experience instead of app uniqueness. Your users will definitely endure some inconveniences, but there is always a threshold at which they will abandon your app for other alternatives.
    To give the best possible user experience, listen to feedback from your users, identify the parts of your app that annoy or frustrate users and work to improve on them. Reducing the amount of resources your app uses, fixing bugs and adding popularly requested features are just a few of the ways you can improve on the user experience of the app. Aim for a 5 star rating from all the users of your apps and their word of mouth advertising will make your app go viral in no time.
  3. Review your pricing: You might have gleaned from experience that mobile app users are extremely reluctant to pay for apps – even the cheapest ones – until they are sure it’s great. Even then, some users will refuse to pay, and go in search of free alternatives – even though these alternatives don’t perform half as well. This makes the pricing model of your app crucial to its success. Make a free version of your app, with a couple of paid versions that add more features with increasing cost. Another purpose a free version will serve is to allow users try out your app, so they can make up their minds to pay for the full version.
  4. Be useful to a single user: Even without the social features, your app should be usable to a single user. While it’s not a must, it will certainly increase its chances of going viral. When the first users experience your app, it would be without the social part. The experience gotten at this stage should be good enough to make them recommend your app to friends. Make your app have something useful for users to do right away without having to invite friends and it will have a better chance to go viral.
  5. Make it worth sharing: If your app gives value, evokes emotions or gives users a more than ordinary experience one way or another, then be sure that users will share it. Create shareable moments that users will share on social media and directly to friends to make your app go viral. The sequence that leads a user from installing an app to inviting new users is called a viral loop.

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