10 thoughts on “The Medium is the Message”

  1. The trick is to do it without trying to “buy” word of mouth (e.g. hiring an ad agency that promises they’ll deliver viral marketing results). Has to be real people, spreading the word because they like the product, not because they’ve been prodded to do so.

    I guess another way of putting it is that there are no shortcuts: you’ve got to get the product right AND make it easy to use and share. One or the other doesn’t cut it.}

  2. The product has to be insanely great in solving a specific problem. That doesn’t mean it needs to be perfect, it just needs to do the intended thing really great. From there you invite the users to be part of the evolution that is product development.}

  3. Even if the product is really good and has an invitation/sharing thing built-in, the real problem I think is in getting the first rush. How do you get the people who are going to invite other people?}

  4. But what is it that “makes” people share though? I doubt its a good product that people like to discuss.. Youtube is fun to share, twitter is addictive, facebook is more functionally useful when you share it – but none of these are really excellent products…}

  5. By really great, software does not need to be in its mature, ideal end state before launching… It does need to be suitable to its purpose, but it only needs to be better than the users’ current alternatives.

    Hopefully, the #1 alternative users have is either not doing what your software enables or doing it manually (the old fashioned way).

    And Tony is correct, the early adopters like to spread the story of the people behind the story more than spew forth a list of product features. Who doesn’t know the story of Jobs and Wozniack building Mac’s in their parents garage or Gates dropping out of Harvard to build Microsoft.}

  6. v slog:

    “But what is it that “makes” people share though?”

    It’s different reasons for different people. Ask people what they like about their iPod and you’ll get 20 different answers. I think people like to share things that delight them and that they feel connected to and a part of. In the ideal product, the act of sharing it completes the product experience (like sharing photos you just uploaded with someone), though that of course doesn’t work for every product.

    “yotube… twitter… facebook… but none of these are really excellent products…”

    I would disagree. These are highly innovative, useful and focused products, which makes them excellent in my book.}

  7. Brian:

    “By really great, software does not need to be in its mature, ideal end state before launching…”

    I totally agree. The beauty of web software is that you can iterate and update it so quickly. It allows people to launch a product as soon as the core, compelling features are usable and then continue to build things out. It seems that more and more web users really like this process of seeing a product evolve rapidly because it’s great to see feedback incorporated and bugs fixed and just the general “freshness” of new features getting added all the time.}

  8. Tony, all your points 1-3 are spot on. Doing it properly can be a lonely road though… although its the only logical one to take. There’s such a herd mentality going on at the moment, by VCs and webtrepreneurs. All this Web2.0 hype is so ridiculous. “The Web” sheeeesh… Its like, “Get off the highway and take a look around…” There’s a lot bigger opportunities on the internet, off the web than on it.}

  9. It’s so much easier than ever to get the word out about your company, so this is a great, great article! I think the main thing people need to realize is that building a brand is a slow and consistent process – you hear of one hit wonders, but by and by, most of us are going to see it work the old fashioned way. We’ve built a pretty significant brand (StyleDiary) with zero budget – we’re into a new phase with growing the business now, but in the early years it worked very well.}

  10. Great piece, Toni. Last year we started a little side project, Valleyschwag, which was never more than a gag (a schwag-of-the-month club–talk about Web2.0 bubble!). But we wanted it to be a really good gag, so we had a ton of fun with it. We gave the project an inexplicable cowboy theme, corralled the best promo gear in the ‘hood, and lovingly wrapped each package in cattle-branded burlap. Despite the craftsmanlike attention to detail, the product was completely silly. Still, we’d managed to connect with our audience, which turned out to be a lot bigger than expected. Within two months, thanks to word of mouth and a few well trafficked blogs, we had thousands of paying subscribers.

    It all came down to forging a genuine connection with an audience that really cared about what we were doing.

    Too bad it was such a ridiculous business in every other way.}

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