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Designing for distribution with Eric+Eric (YC 2011, Mochi Media)

One important question that comes up all the time is, what makes a product easy to market?  I had a fun chat about the topic with Eric Florenzano and Eric Maguire who worked together at Mochi Media with my sister Ada. They also recently did YCombinator.

After the chat, eflo wrote up a helpful summary of some of the ideas we covered. I wanted to quickly share them with some comments:

1. Come up with one resounding use case–one thesis for how people should use the product.  Preferably this fits in with something that users already do and already understand.

I’m going to write a ton about this later, but basically having a product in a category that people really understand makes it easier to get people through flows and to ask them to do different account setup steps. This is especially true in cases where it’s totally obvious that they need to invite friends part of a setup (communication, publishing, etc.)

2. Make sure that people entering the flow are going through one funnel, and only one funnel, and make sure all users go through it.  Then tune this funnel, by doing lots and lots of tests often.

Additionally, a simple user flow means a simpler product, and because it takes so long to optimize a funnel (weeks and possibly months), you want to put all your weight behind one onboarding experience.

3. Prefer one distribution channel over a choice of many. (Just choose Facebook, or just choose Twitter.)

Similar point- make it easy to optimize. You can always add more later, but early on, quality of your funnel beats quantity of funnels.

4. Think about the channel and its context and try to match that to the expected audience.  Address book scraping will pull in personal friends, Twitter broadcasting will pull in less personal friends.

It’s always funny how people think adding a Like button or a Tweet This button will suddenly make their product viral. That’s just completely bolt-on, and doesn’t make sense. Instead, you have to match the context so that the entire UX is really cohesive and it makes sense why you’re inviting people.

5. Distribution mechanisms should be universalizable.  i.e. if off-site embedding is going to be the distribution mechanism, make it a core part of the product and show it to virtually every user.  YouTube was given as an example of this.

Similar point re: the tendency to “bolt on” virality at the end- if you have a viral loop that doesn’t actually cohesively fit into your product, you end up with a really disjointed experience. Instead, the thinking has to start at the beginning- pick something where the sharing/invites are embedded into the idea in the first place.

6. Metrics can’t drive everything.  You need to have a thesis and use metrics to validate that thesis.

Painfully learned :-)

7. It’s not always about tightening the viral loop at all costs–sometimes adding a step can actually improve conversions because it makes more sense. (Twitter was the example here.)

Essentially, adding more steps can add to the cohesiveness of the UX, which then improves overall conversion rate, which then helps your virality.

Anyway, those were the rough notes- I could expand a lot on this but that will have to be for a different day!

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