Lessons Learned – Viral Marketing and Checking in and out: Foursquare and Gamification


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 01, 2023

4 min read


Lessons Learned – Viral Marketing and Checking in and out: Foursquare and Gamification

In the world of digital marketing, viral growth is the ultimate goal. The ability to have customers share your product or service with others can lead to exponential growth and success. But what are the key factors that drive viral growth? And how can gamification be used to incentivize user behavior?

One of the key parameters in viral growth is the Viral Coefficient. This is the number of new customers that each existing customer is able to successfully convert. In order for viral growth to occur, the Viral Coefficient must be greater than 1. This means that each customer is bringing in at least one new customer. To calculate the Viral Coefficient, simply multiply the number of invitations by the conversion rate.

However, while the Viral Coefficient is important, it is not the most crucial factor in driving growth. The Viral Cycle Time, or the time it takes for the viral cycle to complete, is actually more impactful. A shorter cycle time leads to more rapid growth. In fact, reducing the cycle time has a far more powerful effect than increasing the Viral Coefficient.

So how can companies create products or services that have viral potential? The key is to make them shareable. The most viral products are those that only work if they are shared. Think about applications that are social in nature, where they work better when data is shared with friends or co-workers. The value proposition of your product must be compelling enough that customers will want to share it with others.

But it's not enough for customers to simply share your product or service. In order to truly drive growth, you must also provide an incentive for the person receiving the invitation. This could be in the form of a discount, exclusive access, or some other enticing offer. By giving both the sharer and the receiver an equal incentive, you increase the likelihood of viral growth.

Now let's shift gears and talk about Foursquare and gamification. Foursquare was one of the pioneers in location-based check-ins and achieved great success through the use of gamification. Gamification is the practice of using game design elements to reward behavior in a non-game setting. For Foursquare, points, badges, and mayorships were used to incentivize users to check in and compete with their friends.

However, as other social networks caught up with location-based check-ins, Foursquare's popularity began to decline. This raises an important point about gamification – it cannot drive long-term behavioral change. While gamification mechanics can be powerful in driving initial user behavior, the behavior itself must have intrinsic value beyond the game mechanics.

Rewards should be for behaviors that have real value for users and the platform. In the case of Foursquare, the value came from users reviewing places and submitting tips. This not only made the Foursquare service more valuable, but it also encouraged users to engage more with the platform.

When implementing gamification, it's important to choose the desired behaviors carefully. They should have real meaning within the organization and reflect corporate goals. In addition, recognition of someone as an expert can be a powerful motivator. Rewards without recognition won't work in the long run. People want to feel a sense of progress and completion, and recognition serves as proof of their expertise and work.

In conclusion, viral marketing and gamification are powerful tools in driving user behavior. By focusing on the Viral Coefficient and reducing the Viral Cycle Time, companies can increase their chances of achieving viral growth. And when it comes to gamification, it's important to choose behaviors that have real value and provide recognition for users. By incorporating these strategies, companies can create products and services that not only attract users but also encourage them to share and engage with others.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Focus on creating a product or service that is inherently shareable. Think about how it can be made social, where it works better when shared with others.
  • 2. Provide incentives for both the sharer and the receiver when encouraging customers to share your product or service. This increases the likelihood of viral growth.
  • 3. When implementing gamification, choose behaviors that have real value within your organization and provide recognition for users. This will drive long-term engagement and behavior change.

Remember, viral marketing and gamification are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Each company must tailor their approach to fit their unique goals and target audience. By understanding the core principles behind these strategies and applying them strategically, companies can unlock the potential for viral growth and increased user engagement.

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