Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Viral v. Retention

I just came across Andrew Chen's blog - interesting stuff. I am pondering this post where he digs in to the lifecycle of a Facebook application. The prevailing idea is that many successful apps fall just as fast as they rise. The essential idea is that that viral elements feed the rise, but retention elements are needed to stave off decline. Applications that are deep on retention elements miss the rise all together. It is a rare app that provides a healthy balance.

The process of evolving an app from viral to retention follows a similar path found in traditional grassroots politicking. The goal is to first identify the supporter with very low-hurdle asks - sign a petition, pledge your support, provide an email address. Once snared, you then bring the user along the ladder of engagement, from these low-hurdle asks to such things as displaying a yard sign, volunteering, and ultimately donating.

Social media offers the opportunity to drive supporter engagement in a very similar manner, albeit with a plethora of new tools and opportunities. First, on the viral front, the initial hurdle for identification can be much lower (i.e. add an application, join a group). And the bar for engagement actions are much lower as well - make a call from your home, send an email, etc.

We have made our first successful stab on the viral front, with Hillary Gifts. Stay tuned as we support the Clinton campaign's move up the engagement ladder...

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