Killing the viral launch

This morning I was asked what I had learned from my reading of Viral Loop: from Facebook to Twitter, how today’ smartest businesses grow themselves by Adam L Penenberg. My first takeaway was how much work is involved in launching any new online venture that scales exponentially. The challenges posed to the IT crew are staggering. Projects that build infrastructure for three years prior to launch (like ning) are designed to scale far better than those that cobble some servers together at first and cope with scaling after it occurs. This posed a stark contrast in my mind between formal systems on dedicated platforms with user login protocols and informal systems that require no login and are free to be distributed over any and all social networking platforms.

My bigger takeaway dealt with four ways to kill a viral launch before it begins to takeoff. Each of these are approaches that closed minds would formulate confidently:
  • Develop a delivery system for a product/service mix designed for end users. The interaction is completely over when the customers make use of it. There's nothing to share with others or invite others to join. Consuming products and services is the main activity.
  • Keep the development process opaque to the public. Conduct design sessions, in house dialogues and internal debates in private. Avoid any process transparency that could inadvertently develop trust in the offering, identification with the team members or faith in their noble intentions. Keep people from talking about the evolving story in the quixotic product development process or the struggles in getting to launch.
  • Offer complete answers, solutions and systems to the unreliable public. Leave nothing to chance, misinterpretation or tampering. Forestall any conversations that might question the value, interpret the offer creatively, challenge the propaganda insightfully or explore other innovative uses.
  • Overcharge for the offering -- using the freebie as mere bait, deception and temptation. Eliminate any continual free use by forcing everyone to pay after an initial trial period. Preclude any large following where a small percentage value the premium version and subsequently pay for all the others.

To think this way, all we have do is close our minds. The details will take care of themselves. There no need to consider how to be controlling, how to dehumanize others or how to send the wrong message to eager early adopters. Keeping focused on the launch of the perfect product after a long production effort will do everything required to kill the viral launch.

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