February 12, 2010

Triggers in Viral eMail Campaigns

eMail Week continues: If there is one thing I think I was born with, it is my ability to find viral triggers on e-mail landing pages. It was my first encounter with a real entrepreneur that taught me that virality was all in the copy and not in the monetary value. I applied some Game Theory to that and a few months later I managed to make it a predictable science.

This blog post gives you the basics of what to think about when working with viral e-mail campaigns and viral triggers.

What is a viral trigger?

Well a viral trigger is basically a phrase or a word that makes people share what you want them to share. This viral trigger has evolved throughout the years. It started out as a “share this”, then became “invite a friend”. Later it took the form of “check which of your contacts have already…” and so it has evolved. Currently I use variations of the word “claim” and it works even for the most obscure verticals.

Where should you put the viral triggers?

Well, in this case we’re talking about an e-mail campaign in which case the viral trigger should be put in a natural link if longer than two words, or in exemption cases, put in a button in the bottom right corner of what ever landing page you have. It works as a call to action, but it has no definitive “now” demand in it.

Viral triggers shouldn’t be put in an e-mail. Viral triggers shall be put on a landing page. I don’t know why, they simply don’t work in the e-mail. They only seem to work if they are put in a place that is “stable” such as a landing page.

Complimentary triggers

You need to combine your viral trigger with some complimentary triggers. The most important of which is the “max” or limit to how much you can share something. Even though there is no limitation, you need to add a limitation. In best case, they will reload the form and notice that they have “broken the system” and continue sharing your stuff til the end of day.

They’ll be laughing about it as they managed to exploit a crack in the system, you’ll be laughing as you’ll get a lot of contacts.

Another complimentary trigger is the “invite everyone, if x joins, then”. This trigger is perfect for viral campaigns with a guaranteed something and a bigger other that will come if the x amount of other people join. Let me exemplify this with a sentence I used not that long ago.

“Join and you will gain access to our full services. Invite your friends. If 5 of them join, you will receive a premium account upgrade.”

It really works miracles.

Share and invite functionality

Some people argue that you shouldn’t use those “get your contacts from gmail” import apps. I say you have to. Usually I get about 10-20% type in errors if I don’t. People simply don’t type in e-mail addresses the correct way and in order to help them share your content you SHALL always use import functionality if you can.

If you are running a cross platform viral with Facebook then Connect works miracles as well as people get to select their friends from a list. One thing you should keep in mind though is to always have a link to an option where people can type in manually or put them next to each other with a “invite your friends manually or use a simple importer to add them from xx”.

The e-mail as a notification

If you keep the graphics to the landing page, I always find it most convenient and effective to use very non-designed e-mails that look more like Facebook notifications than a newsletter. Short and possibly with a hello phrase from the viral sender. Don’t over make it. It should be convenient, clean and never messy. Put your logo in there for some authority, then focus all your strength on the landing page instead.

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1 Comment
  • Steve, February 20, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for the info, I'll be using this in my future campaigns.


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