Establishing a viral loop

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Most marketers agree word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

After all, people are far more likely to believe an acquaintance they feel has no personal stake, over the contents a paid advertising message.

Thus, when you’re trying to sell furniture online—or any other product for that matter—generating buzz is key to your success.

Establishing a viral loop can be very effective for this purpose, but getting one started can be tricky.

Let’s take a look at a few ideas for doing so.

First, What is a Viral Loop?

The concept is perhaps best illustrated in the Faberge Organics Shampoo ad from the 1980s. In the spot, a young woman extols the virtues of the shampoo and explains how she told two friends, who told two friends and so on and so on and so on. You might recognize this as a message going viral, but when it multiplies in this fashion it creates a viral loop in which it spreads logarithmically.

Aggressive Generosity

The smart play is to create some sort of offer capable of turning each of your customers into evangelists for your store.

A good start is to include an outbound message in all of your customer communications encouraging users to invite people they know to check out your site and—by extension—your wares.

Placing a link at the end of each message reading “P.S., I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail;” the site’s founders grew the servicefrom zero to two million users in just over seven months.

Leverage Exclusivity

Sounds way counter-intuitive right?

People love getting something they think few others can have. Encourage your best customers to invite their friends to join your roster of “elite preferred customers.” Emphasize membership will be limited to friends of friends, so the only way they can join is by referral.

Whether you sell furniture online using a platform like Shopify, or sporting goods, or electronics, or anything else you’ll have to provide an incentive your potential customers will find valuable. Whether it’s a discount code, or advance previews of upcoming product or some other incentive, the key is to make it clear that only those deemed worthy will be accepted.

Incentivize Participation

This one kind of dovetails with the previous one, as customers will be rewarded for participation. The ting here is to be sure you can scale it without going broke.

Say for example you offer a 10 percent discount to a customer and each person they refer who refers others in turn. That can add up rather substantially if the promotion gains traction, so you have to make sure you can afford to support the offer.

Encouraging Boasting

“Look what I’ve got, done, can do, or will do—” Put people in a situation in which they can make a statement like this to their peers and you’ll strike gold.

When you think about it, that’s exactly what Facebook was before it evolved into what it is today. People relish an opportunity to brag about their kids, their vacations, their remodeled kitchens and the like—all under the guise of staying in touch with friends.

Create a situation in which people can do this around your business and you’ll gain plenty of buzz.

These four tactics can be very effective at starting viral loops. More than a few successful businesses were built upon engendering word of mouth advertising. Establishing a viral loop effectively turns your customers into salespeople, and it really can’t get any better than that when it comes to credibility.