What do Tupperware, HotorNot and ebay have in common? Answer- they are all proponents of " Viral marketing"- companies that have succeeded through word of mouth alone. There's a real interesting story here- and this book tells half of it.
Neatly and efficiently, it relates the stories of several of these companies that have succeeded through clever use of the public. And fascinating stories they are.
And yet..and yet..
There's something missing here. The book is fun and interesting. But it could have been so much more. it could have been much more analytical, letting the reader see behind the business.
I enjoyed it, but I didn't get the feeling I got reading Freakanomics, for example, that I was seeing what goes on behind the magician's curtain. Just a set of anecdotes. Good anecdotes, mind you- but there could have been so much more...
I spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet so I was drawn to this book for its insight into well known internet businesses including Facebook, MySpace, eBay, PayPal, Flickr and so on. It's not a book that intends to teach about how to create a successful viral business it's more of a biography of the development of viral businesses.
The book starts with a section on "Viral Businesses" with an interesting first chapter about early viral businesses such as Tupperware and the illegal Ponzi scheme. The second chapter looks at the first online viral loop with Mosaic and Netscape. From thereon the history of the internet and its viral loops is biographically covered in sections called "Viral Marketing" and "Viral Networks". The books ends with a short epilogue about the viral nature of human development.
If you are interested in the internet and the businesses that are so prominent in today's web then you will enjoy the detail and insights that this book provides. The writing is clear and easy to read and there are plenty of interesting nuggets about the internet as well as the overall theme of viral networks.
Viral loop is a book about word-of-mouth marketing, largely on the internet. It's well-written, with some interesting stories about the development of facebook, hotmail, ebay and other big internet names, as well as anecdotes about similar businesses that failed to take off.
It's hard to work out why some businesses do work and others don't. Whilst this book offers lots of examples that might provide some insights, and is quite inspiring for anyone trying to get their own big internet idea off the ground, I would say its of limited use to most small businesses that aren't necessarily aiming to be global internet giants one day. But if you are starting an internet business, you may find this an interesting read, if a bit limited on the practical side.
This is a very interesting survey of the development of "virality" online.
It is enlightening, and accurate, to think of early party-plan selling, like Tupperware, as a type of viral communication. The author follows the development of familiar online facilities, organisations, and networking. The background information on the development of now-famous online resources is very interesting, and the writing style has an enjoyable pace. The internet as a mass medium has only had an existence for about 15 years, and it is fascinating to retrace, and get the background information on, things we have become very well-acquainted with.
A discussion of this topic is highly relevant, for currently the internet has reached the stage of drastically challenging 'traditional' media, including newspapers and commerical television. Those media depend on advertising revenue, and if advertisers find cheaper and more effective ways to market virally online, then the traditional media may cease to exist. And in retail, consider, for example, the success, after slow beginnings, of online retailers like Amazon! Last month, Borders ceased trading in the UK, and the only remaining bookstore chain, Waterstones (owned by HMV) looks to be on shaky ground. Most independent bookstores have closed in the last decade, due to the demise of the Net Book Agreement. So it may be that retail bookstores simply die out on the UK high street, and online retailing continues to increase. It will be most interesting to see what the next year or two brings.
The book naturally focusses on developments in the USA, but for UK readers it might have been nice to have a chapter on friendsreunited, as the intial virality of that site's use, and its subsequent evolution and chges of ownership, have been highly relevant to the UK reader and connstitute an interesting social phenomenon, and an illustration of certain legal complexities.
First of all, this is not quite what I was expecting: having not read the description properly I thought it was going to be about companies using viral marketing techniques to advertise their products. It is actually about companies that that are themselves viral and which 'sell' themselves as much as their products, and mostly through word-of-mouth rather than any normal advertising.
For the most part this is a series of case studies of what the author calls viral companies - mostly internet-based businesses, but it starts with the story of Tupperware to show that the concept can, and has, worked for traditional companies albeit at a slower pace.
The style is quite straightforward, verging on the folksy at times, but very readable. After a while you feel that the stories fall into the same sort of structure: one or two people start a website for amusement or a niche activity, the userbase grows exponentially, the servers fall over with the weight of traffic, it gets fixed and gets bigger, then a few years after it all started the founders sell up for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.
Fortunately there are some exceptions, some notable failures are also covered and there are some theories about what a company needs to 'go viral' and take off. Nothing too specific of course - if the author knew how to create a website he could sell for millions in a year he wouldn't be s[pending his time writing a book instead - but nonetheless the concepts seem sound.
So the book won't make you rich, but for anybody who has used Flickr, eBay, PayPal, Ning or Facebook it puts a human face to the familiar websites, and the short history of the browser wars is a nice trip down memory lane. It wasn't that long ago really, but in internet terms it is delving into ancient history.
Certainly worth a read.
Here's how it works: you read a book you enjoy and you tell a friend. That friend tells another friend, the next friend tells the next, and so on and so forth, until the book becomes that year's word-of-mouth bestseller. That first recommendation gives birth to many. Simple. The concept of pass-it-on is not so new and not so revolutionary - think Avon - that is, until forward-thinking Web companies got hold of it and created their own, efficient, money-spinning model known as the Viral Loop: the ability to grow a company exponentially because the customers themselves spread it. Super simple. Outfits such as Google, eBay, Flickr and Facebook all employ the model at the core of their business all have seen their stock valuations skyrocket within years of forming. The genius lies in the model's reliance on replication: what's the point of using Facebook if none of your friends can see your profile, or using Flickr if you can't share your photos? Where's the joy in posting a video on YouTube if no one watches it? Thus, in creating a viral product that people want, need and desire, growth can, and will, take care of itself. Business has never been so straightforward, or so it would seem. In this ground-breaking work, the first to analyze this paradigm-busting phenomenon, we are introduced to the architects of the Viral Loop and the companies which profit from its mechanics. Insightful, timely and revelatory, it reveals the secrets behind the most successful businesses in recent history, and explains how the Loop will catch you up, sooner rather than later.
If you like books like 'The Long Tail' then this is for you.
This is a totally absorbing insight into the shaping of the world we live in today. It was, after all, only about 1930 when most homes had electricity. The electrical products which came after the take-up of electricity led to ice being made at home (refrigeration) servants made redundant and an increase in the rate of population growth. Broadband is having a similar changing impact on global commerce. When the railway lines were laid many companies went bust. But the tracks were laid for economic growth.
Adam L. Penenberg has written the story of how the globe is being rewired. He is detailed in the human stories of innovation and business acumen. He captures the vigour of the emerging industry of software development so that mere e-mailers and amazon users like myself have a much deeper appreciation of what else is going on behind the display screen.
The analysis of numbers in dollars and humans is bewildering only because instant success has never been so clearly perceived. The story of Hotmail (a woman's idea for the name) and Netscape are in the realms of garage mechanics. Academics and business entrepreneurs, venture capitalists get really good reviews in this book. The politics of empowerment of the individual at the expense of huge global players is touched upon but not hammered home.
Chapter Five is my favourite chapter. It took me by surprise given that it is an analysis of making and watching films. Something which is beginning to take over me here on amazon reviews. I really am enthused by the idea of creating moving images and having them instantly viewed by so many other people. In my case the images are to hold attention and be enlightened as to how a product could work for you. It's not self projection; it is a creative space.
Penenberg discusses the psychology of computer users. The public, personal and digital self. I revelled in the use of language throughout the book. As well as technical, scientific, geekspeak, the Americanisms always make me smile. But the digital self intrigues. His example of a woman who is constantly on her mobile, using her laptop, finding Wi-Fi and blogging is Mary Hodder who is apparently well known for napsterization.org, I found fascinating.
You will note I have not mentioned 'viral loop' and how it is effectively word of mouth on the Internet. The book is all about instant feedback and human networks. I enjoyed reading the story of Tupperware parties and how that marketing strategy was of its time. A time when people were moving into suburbia and wanting to get to know each other. It is fascinating the lengths humans go to in order to avoid being themselves. As salespeople we have a measure of control. A measure of success. Highly recommended.
A lot of the other reviews have covered this well - it's a good, entertaining book telling the story of some of the recent "phenomena" of the internet age, and how small ideas suddenly became big thanks to word of mouth.
For an interesting tale, I really recommend this book. It gives you lots of background information and tells some of the behind the scenes tales that you'll probably end up telling to someone else (largely proving the book's thesis of course!)
But where the book falls down for me (and this is perhaps particular to me) is that it isn't particularly rigorous in its research. Because I work in academia I want to know why things happen the way they do, and the book doesn't really explain it. Now you could say, well this isn't an academic text book, it's aimed at a different audience, and that would be fair. Except that The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference covers a lot of the same ground (how small ideas become big) while covering the research that backs it up, and doing it in a highly readable way (in fact I use the book with my students as a good example of how proper academic research can be communicated to a wide audience).
I was hoping this book would achieve the same level but for me it just failed to do it, hence the three stars.
But I'm torn as that isn't perhaps telling the full story.
Oh and another thing in its favour - even though the subject is largely technology, it isn't a book that demands even a passing knowledge of techy terms!
This book is more a history of the various successes (and otherwise) of the internet companies that have appeared over the past 10 years or so.
The book tries to show how Marketing can be done "virally" - or by word of mouth, rather than by huge budgets and massive advertising campaigns.
It starts with Tupperware in the 1950s - not exactly a web-based company - but it was marketed through individuals, who then brought in other people - so the model is the same.
We then look at a wide range of well known sites - Hotmail, Google, Facebook, YouTube - and consider how their growth was generated by referrals - whether the tag at the bottom of the Hotmail email saying "use Hotmail it's free!", or by the social network style of Facebook, where if you join, you bring in your friends, who bring in their friends... and exponential growth (if you're lucky).
I am still (after reading the book) not clear why these sites sell for millions of dollars - the only income seems to be through advertising "clicks" - and apparently that is now a thing of the past - we are so used to panel adverts that we now ignore them.
Anyway - written in a chatty style, with interesting background to the nerds, geeks and other assorted loons who built these sites in their bedrooms and then became zillionaires over night... And some cautionary tales of too many hits on too slow servers etc.
This is a book about the way people pass things on to one another. Using the term 'viral' to illustrate how things get passed on. Its similar to the 'tipping point' by Malcolm Gladwell. The style of using success stories to illustrate a particular viral concept.
The point of the book is to show all the different ways things can become viral and the opportunity is there to perhaps use that model.
I must admit when I received this book I was excited to find out more about getting business ideas to spread. I know the book has some useful information but somehow it just hasn't managed to grip me anything like the 'tipping point' did.
I think there is a hidden energy that gets things moving as well. Its not just about a technique or a case of copying. Things just take off sometimes. When viewed in retrospect one can see how it happened.
It nearly always boils down to an individual. Something about the energy of that individual and what they touch can set off a series of events and connections.
The book has many well-studied cases of modern and older companies that got things moving in a huge way.
At the time I got this book it was competing with a few others I wanted to read. When this happens I usually start a book and if it grips me after a few pages I'm in and I'll either read all of it or most of it. I just didn't manage to connect with it.