Similar to a lot of pop songs, viral hits tend to be something of a one-hit wonder. The news/product/image/story/etc. spreads like wildfire, but interest dies down just as rapidly. Entrepreneur Magazine recently covered an outlier to this rule. We have a case of virality-turned sustainable business.
The company in question is Ship Your Enemies Glitter. You have probably heard of them a couple of months ago – the whole idea was to send people you don’t like an envelope of glitter that scatters once the envelope is opened (and is super annoying to clean up).
Ship Your Enemies Glitter blew up on social media, and within a couple of days everyone was talking about it. Probably thinking that the hype was not going to last, the original creator listed his website up for sale after a week, and was able to sell it for $85,000. Contrary to popular belief, the investment turned out to be a great choice for the new owner.
He did not attempt to milk the hype, but instead looked on Ship Your Enemies Glitter as a proof of concept, that people are willing to buy annoying or disgusting things as prank gifts for friends and for people they genuinely don’t like. By testing a lot of products and partnering with other companies, Ship Your Enemies Glitter is now a growing business.
So what are the learnings of this case study?
Nurture the hype, but don’t become reliant on it
when you ask a lot of early stage startups what their marketing strategy is, you often hear “our product is so good, we are betting on virality”. The problem is that you cannot plan on virality, you can only increase the likelihood of it happening.
If you become viral though, you should not forget that the hype will not last. You can help keep the hype going for a certain period of time, and you definitely should. However it will die down sooner or later, so plan your next steps ahead of time.
Use the traction to develop your idea
Having a sudden increase in interest for your product is great! There is a great deal you can learn about your product in during the hype. Be active and ask for feedback, engage with the users, find out what they love and what they hate. Gathering information is imperative for your product to develop and evolve into a consumer hit that can last for the long term.
Virality does not mean you cannot find new customers/users anymore
Don’t assume that everyone on the internet now knows about your product, and that any form of marketing (apart from retargeting) is no longer useful. On the contrary – your product has gained a lot of attention in a small amount of time – you must be doing something right!
But you haven’t reached everyone with that short term popularity. In the example of Ship Your Enemies Glitter, the company experiences regular spikes in traffic from new areas and friend groups discovering the company for the first time, so the interest actually keeps going (albeit on a much smaller level).
Do not become overly excited
Do not make the mistake to think that the sudden popularity surge is there to stay. Reality will hit sooner or later, don’t be massively disappointed when all of a sudden your traffic drops significantly. Plan for the long term, because only then can your business become sustainable.