Ten Steps to a Sticky, Viral Website: by David Gikandi

(reprinted with permission from Your Virtual Insurance, March 21, 2002 issue, published by SellingWithTechnology.com)

The great news is that your site can become more sticky and viral right away – just employ a few simple tools. But remember – they work best if you add them into all your pages, emails, and products, as often as possible.

  1. Email to a Friend
    Make it easy for people to send every page of your site to their friends. The number one rule of viral campaigns is: make your message easy to spread. Ensure each page has a clear link or icon that invites the user to send that page to someone they know. And keep it simple – when they click on the icon, users should be able to send simply by entering their name and their friend’s email address. The only other piece of information you may want to ask them for is their friend’s name for personalization purposes. To add this functionality to your site, you’ll need to download a free script – there are plenty to choose from.
  2. Free Tools
    Offer a version of your product, or some other tool, for free. To promote its dissemination, make sure it’s useful and valued by your target audience. Ensure also that it’s very easy for users to pass these free products on to their friends. And, if you can integrate the spread of your product as a necessary aspect of its use, then you’ll have it made: just by using your product, the person will have to tell their friends about it. Something you can make quickly is a screensaver or wallpaper. Download some decent software, find some good images, and create a high-quality product. Perhaps integrate your site URL and description into your screensaver. Then submit your freebies to popular download sites such as ZDNet.com and Download.com. And every time someone downloads and uses your screensaver, they’ll find out about your site.
  3. Forums, Chat, and Community
    Encourage your visitors to add content to your site and communicate with each other. Consider forums, chat, and possibly instant messaging. To easily add this kind of functionality to your site, use www.everyone.net. Another way to attract return visits from users is to offer free office tools, such as calendars, file sharing, to-do lists, group tools, and more. Do this easily and for free – simply sign up with Myevents.com.
  4. Postcards
    Postcards are a great way to generate referrals from your existing visitors. The magic of the concept is that postcards sent from your site must also be picked up from your site. By sending postcards from your site, visitors inadvertently expose your site to their friends, which translates into new users. To start a free postcard service, all you need is a CGI script.
  5. Variety
    Amazon.com’s success is largely due to the variety of products it provides to users. Choice means convenience, and convenience is sticky. So how do you add a store with millions of products to your site, without taking on the expense and hassle of running such a huge business? Add a Vstore. It’s easy and free, and provides brand name products in a wide variety of categories set up as a virtual store in a few minutes.
  6. Newsletter
    Newsletters and mailing lists work wonders for sites that use them well. Offer an incentive that encourages users to subscribe. And provide samples or back-issues on-site – people aren’t likely to just hand over their email address without knowing what they’ll get in exchange. Your newsletter should always carry relevant, useful content, not just advertisements. If it’s useful, people will enjoy it and pass it on to their friends. Again, remember to specifically ask them to pass it on. To start your newsletter, you’ll need a mailing list server.
  7. Free Email
    Be another Hotmail – give away free email accounts. Every time one of your users sends email from one of these freebie accounts, a small signature that contains your URL and short description of your business is attached to the message. And whenever users check their email, they’ll have to visit your site. You can quickly set yourself up as a free email provider.
  8. News and Announcements
    Your site should always offer relevant and fresh content – it gives users yet another reason to return.
  9. Link Exchange
    Provide easy ways for other sites to link to you. Create a page on your site that showcases different banners and links, and offer them to Webmasters who want to link to your homepage. Provide the ready-to-paste HTML code for each of these links, so that all a Webmaster needs to do is copy and paste it to their site. You might also consider starting an affiliate program so you can pay higher-referring sites. Do all you can do to make it easy, profitable and interesting for people to tell others about you.
  10. Recommend This Site
    Add a recommend-this-site button to your pages, and offer users a free gift, or entry into a prize draw, in exchange for their recommendation. Given a chance to benefit by telling others about you, users will be more likely to spread the news. Recommend-It will give you a great button that tells your users to recommend your site in exchange for a chance to win $10,000 – and Recommend-It supplies the prize money!

Thrive in the New Economy!

These are just a few of the tools and principles that created – and continue to create – businesses that thrive in the new economy. You can implement all of them on your site in a day if you put your mind to it – all for very little, if any, money. And the benefits can be immense if you do it right!

Stickiness and viral elements are the most important aspects of marketing your online business, arguably even more so than branding and advertising. If you spend millions promoting a site that isn’t sticky or viral, your average customer acquisition cost will probably be too high to make profit possible, and you’re likely to lose visitors, and may not even make a sale during the short period in which they’re actually on your site. So start now: make your site sticky and viral!

Also – for under $300 we can add these to your site: 562-901-9833 SellingwithTechnology.com