Strategies to Drive Virality and Maintain Quality in Your Startup Community


Hatched by Glasp

Jul 27, 2023

4 min read


Strategies to Drive Virality and Maintain Quality in Your Startup Community


In the fast-paced world of startups, achieving viral growth is often seen as the ultimate goal. One prime example of viral success is Pinterest, which experienced exponential growth in its early years. However, it is important to note that sustainability and quality are equally vital for the long-term success of a startup. This article explores the strategies employed by Pinterest to achieve virality while also addressing the concept of the Evaporative Cooling Effect in social networks and how it can impact community quality.

Pinterest's Journey to Viral Success:

Pinterest's rise to fame was not immediate. Unlike many other startups that experience early hype spikes, Pinterest started with just 40,000 monthly unique visitors eight months after its launch. However, the team worked diligently to perfect a soft onboarding process that focused on high engagement. They created a product that users loved and kept coming back to. By layering viral techniques on top of this strong foundation, Pinterest gradually experienced a network effect that propelled its growth. The platform leveraged web content from Tumblr, effectively riding on its network effect without relying solely on user-generated content.

Perfecting In-Network and Out-of-Network Virality:

One of the key factors contributing to Pinterest's phenomenal growth was its ability to harness both in-network and out-of-network virality. The platform introduced features such as pinning, repinning, and liking content within its network, creating a viral loop within its user base. Additionally, Pinterest integrated with popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, allowing users to share their pins outside of the platform. This dual approach to virality enabled Pinterest to engage and attract new users from various sources, contributing to its rapid growth.

The Evaporative Cooling Effect and Community Quality:

In social networks, the Evaporative Cooling Effect refers to the phenomenon where high-value contributors leave a community because they no longer derive value from it. As a result, the overall quality of the community decreases over time. This effect becomes more pronounced as new members join, diluting the rate of high-quality contributors. Recognizing this challenge, startups must find ways to slow down the Evaporative Cooling Effect and maintain community quality.

Strategies to Slow Down the Evaporative Cooling Effect:

  • 1. Implement Social Gating: Social Gating is a powerful force that helps maintain the quality of a community. By setting up barriers to entry, such as requiring relevant knowledge or frequently canceling inactive accounts, a startup can ensure that only committed and engaged users become part of the community. Charging a membership fee can also be an effective method, as it filters out users who are not genuinely interested in contributing to the community.
  • 2. Recognize Special Contributors: Providing high status or recognition to special contributors within the community can incentivize them to stay and continue contributing their valuable insights. This recognition could come in the form of badges, exclusive access to certain features, or even opportunities to collaborate with the startup itself. By acknowledging and rewarding these contributors, a startup can create a sense of belonging and encourage them to remain active.
  • 3. Balance Scalability and Stability: Startups need to strike a balance between scalability and stability when designing their community structure. Communities with a plaza-like structure, which are easy to expand, are more susceptible to the Evaporative Cooling Effect. On the other hand, communities with a warren-like structure, characterized by personalized content and a more closed-off nature, may not be as scalable but tend to be more stable. Depending on the goals and nature of the startup, finding the right balance between these two structures is crucial for maintaining community quality.


Achieving viral growth is a desirable outcome for any startup, but it should not come at the expense of community quality. By learning from Pinterest's journey to success and understanding the Evaporative Cooling Effect, startups can implement strategies to drive virality while maintaining the integrity of their communities. Implementing social gating, recognizing special contributors, and finding the right balance between scalability and stability are actionable steps that startups can take to ensure sustainable growth and long-term success.

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