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The key to making a product or service that has the potential to become viral is to include something that adds value as more people in the user’s network use or adopt it. The network effect is the term for this phenomenon.

Facebook grasped the notion of the network effect to a tee. If you’re the only one in your circle of friends who has a Facebook account, it’s rather pointless.

The capacity to look into the lives of individuals in your near (and not so close) network is Facebook’s customer-facing value proposition. The more valuable a network is to you as a user, the bigger it is.

I’d like to give a few instances of goods that I helped go viral by using my own network connections.

My family used to use Life360, which was a free program. This program utilized the GPS in our cellphones to plot each person’s position on a map, allowing us to know where our whole family was at any given time of day or night.

The application has no genuine utility in and of itself. However, if everyone in a group of friends or family utilized the app, you could see where each other was by pressing a single button.

Life360’s importance became clear to us one day, leading us to invite everyone we cared about to sign up and become a part of our circle. Hank, my youngest son, worked in a country club restaurant and left between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. every day.

We watched a story of a deadly accident on a route my son takes every night to go home from work while watching the evening news one evening. We saw he was home and secure with a single click on the Life360 app, with no need to call or text.

My whole family, for example, used to utilize a free program called Voxer, which functions like a walkie-talkie. It also recorded the talks, similar to a messaging app, so you could listen to them later as a reminder or respond to the message when it was more convenient for you.

When it comes to Life360 and Voxer, the true benefit comes from informing your network that others should start utilizing the platform as well. That is the power of utilizing the network effect to make anything go viral because it converts consumers into salespeople.

You may argue that this is excellent for an app, however I provide a service and this notion will not work for me. So, let’s pretend you have a Verizon or MCI service.

They were able to make this notion work for them. These firms made it free to contact other Verizon phones as well as your MCI friends and family. As a result, if you had a Verizon mobile phone or MCI landline service, you would have wanted everyone in your calling network to sign up for the same service so you could contact them all for free.

It also incorporates what is known as the lock-in effect as a bonus. I remained with Verizon for many years because my wife spoke to her sister for hours every day, and her sister also used Verizon, and Verizon to Verizon calls were free.

To be completely accurate, there is a notion known as the Viral Effect. The rise of new users is what viral effects are all about. It’s all about having something that others want to speak about and discuss, resulting in a viral effect.

As a result, viral effects occur when you do anything to encourage your current customers to refer you to their friends and family, generally for free as a social agent. The network impact is more about enhancing your product’s value and defensibility.

The network effect occurs when each user of your product gives additional value to all other users, making it difficult for consumers to discover another product that provides them with as much value.

How can you include a sharing feature into your product or service to capitalize on the network effect?

Thanks to Steven Imke at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.