Thursday, June 22, 2006

Blogging - Part Six: Viral Technology - An Introduction

If you are reading this thinking that in this article we are going to discuss "computer viruses" don't read further. "Viral Systems and Technologies" have nothing to do with any computer virus though the "underlying event" that causes both of them to spread is almost the same.

So first, to the uninitiated, we should explain exactly what a "viral system" means and refers to. In order to do this fairly simply we will take an example.

If you want to relay information to someone there are many ways to go about disseminating that information. Among the options you currently have before you are the possibilities of using the phone and calling the person, choosing to write a letter (snail-mail), sending a telegram, or writing an email. In most cases you will expect a reply or reaction from the other party. Based upon that reaction you will react, then they will react and so on and so forth. This is known in our common language and certainly philosophical and historical study, as "cause and effect". I am sure that everyone reading this article knows all of this, at least intuitively.

"Cause and Effect" is a powerful tool in the arsenal of the humanity, and certainly made all that more powerful when applied to Internet technology. One establishes a "cause" hoping for the desired "effect". A simple analogy may be when one builds a web site (cause) and then markets and disseminates the product on the web site (again part of the cause), hoping for the desired "effect" of increasing a customer base. This does not mean that the "customer" must purchase something. "Customers" in this case can be members, visitors, purchasers any part of the experience that brings "eyeballs" (people) to the website.

All this is fairly simplistic of course, but actually a real description of the real world the Internet deals with. "Cause and Effect" are also the keys to Viral Systems.

What is a viral system? Simple. Any system that propagates itself simply because using it creates a "desire" (and later on, "need") for others to use it. Again a good example would be in place here.

Joe is a programmer and builds for himself a really good Messenger system. He really likes it, it works, it is mostly free of bugs and Joe can send messages to himself and read them all day long. No fun in that, is there? So Joe takes a deep breath and puts out his new Instant Messenger system for free on the Internet, calling it "Shmooze". Joe has no money does not market "Shmooze" in any way, except to offer it for free on his site where once in a while and mostly by mistake, someone drops by for 10 seconds.

One day, Sarah happens upon Joe's web site and sees "Shmooze" for downloading. Sarah downloads "Shmooze" installs it and realizes this is a great IM system. But when Sarah logs on all she sees on line is Joe. Now Sarah has nothing against Joe, but she wants to babble with the rest of the universe. So Sarah sends out a few emails to her friends telling them about "Shmooze" and where to find it.

A week goes by and now when Sarah opens her "Shmooze" she sees thousands of people logged on. How did that happen? Simple. "Shmooze" is a classic example of a viral system that "succeeded". Sarah sent out 10 emails to friends and five of these downloaded the program and liked it. They in turn sent out emails to others or told them on the phone or in a conversation about "Shmooze". The word of this new, great IM system spread "virally" to emails and people across the globe.

That is a "Viral System".

Before, my dear reader, you go off into never-never-land just thinking of the possibilities of money-making in viral systems, understand that like anything else viral systems require an incredible amount of luck and great timing to succeed.

Article Submission sites are viral systems. They offer us, the authors, something for free. We create the articles (much like this one) in order to disseminate our name and/or service in that little resource box. They create the program and technology, we deliver the "content", and the Submission Site then offers tools to disseminate the material. How is that viral? Well, if this article is published, and then shows up somewhere in Google or wherever, and then the person who sees it comes to the Submission Site, and then he/she too also submits an article... getting the picture?

Some classic viral systems and technologies on the Internet today are:

1. Chatting and IM systems
2. Article Submission Sites
3. Photo, Video Submission Sites
4. RSS (some feeds)
5. Video & Podcasting
6. Some Dating Sites
7. News sites
8. Blogging can be considered viral for those who host the blogs and those whose blogs are successful

Viral Sites all have in common:

1. They are ALL FREE. By being free to the user they create an easy way to propagate their wares and/or software all over.

2. They offer a service and/or information and do it well. This service meets the needs/desires/wants/wishes of users all over and the users then recommend the site and its services to others they know.

3. They rely on third parties for their income. Advertising, Affiliates, Google Adverts etc. When users get something for free, and they gain from the system, they become "loyal" users. They come back again and again, and thus have every "positive" reaction to any advertisement offered on the viral site. It is actually an advertisers dream come true. A loyal and positive audience who is willing and desirous to "give" something in return for the service they receive. After all, if you buy from X supplier directly, why not buy for the same price through the site? This way the user/member feels they are giving in return for what they receive.

There is a great deal more to be written about the "psychological aspects and effects upon the user" of viral systems, (see my previous article on this, Blogging - Part Five: Trying to Understand the Psychology Behind It All) but that is not for this article.

For many years, in Seminars and conferences I have spoken about the "technological and psychological effects" of viral systems on the Internet, specifically the explosion of "chat" and "IM" systems. The key to success is illusive. After years of study of these systems, I personally cannot say for sure, what specific factor causes some to succeed while others, seemingly better and more robust, fall into the Internet grave. However, there is no doubt that "viral systems" have been and will continue to be leaders in the Internet game for "hits", "eyeballs", "members" and "users". There is also no doubt that the a successful "viral system" can, with a lot of work and a lot of patience, offer incredible returns on an original investment.

There is an incredible amount more to explain and discuss about these systems, but that will be left for another article on the subject. Suffice it to say for now, that in short, viral systems are a major aspect of the Internet Marketplace. The most hit sites on the Net today, (take a look at if you don't trust this) are viral systems. Offering a service for free, doing it well, and thus gaining the loyalty of an ever-growing user base.

Previous Articles In This Series:

  1. The Basics of Blogging and Web Site Creation - Part One: Content Is King

  2. The Basics of Blogging and Web Site Creation - Part Two: Introduction To Keywords

  3. Part Three - Keywords, Tags, Categories - Oh Vey! I Am So Mixed Up!

  4. Blogging & Website Basics - Part Four: So How The Hell Do I Get Bonafide Links To My Blog?

  5. Blogging - Part Five: Trying to Understand the Psychology Behind It All

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Categories: technology, internet, Basics of Blogging Series
Blogging - Part Five: Viral Systems - Trying to Understand the Psychology Behind It All

Edited With Qumana

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