Viral Websites – What’s so Viral about Them?

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I often have customers asking to build them a “viral website” without fully realizing what that means. 

We’ve all heard of viral videos but what exactly is a viral website?  It is a coined term often used in Web 2.0 Development.  A viral website is a website that utilizes viral marketing and viral adverting techniques to generate traffic to it.

Here is how Wikipedia defines viral marketing:  “The buzzwords viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses.

In other words, this means that a “viral website” should be able to self-generate traffic to it by encouraging people to share information about the site with others through existing social networks and other websites.
There are two prerequisites for a website to be considered “viral”:

  1. The website has to represent a truly unique and interesting idea that people are willing to share with others.   
  2. The website needs to have tools and incentives for people to easily share information about it with others.

Without meeting both of these conditions, it is difficult, if not impossible to see the “viral effect” that many people are seeking for their website. Viral marketing and/or building a viral website first requires a “viral idea” that people are willing to share.  Unfortunately, if you think that your idea of a website is cool, doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the Internet will think the same.

We have done several websites recently that I think fall into the category of “viral ideas”:

How are these websites viral? Both ideas are unique and original and people are more inclined to share them with others.  How this is done? This is will be my next weeks’ blog  topic.