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Business cycles

A lucid book on how consumers are helping small businesses to make their fortunes, writes Vijay Jung Thapa.

books Updated: Feb 05, 2010 21:24 IST
Vijay Jung Thapa
Viral Loop

Viral Loop
Adam L. Penenberg
Hachette
# Rs 350 # pp 256

Viral Loop, isn’t exactly an alluring title. And author Adam L. Penenberg, writing for TechCrunch, admits as much.

Before the launch, Hyperion (the US publisher) was scared that regular readers (read non-geeks), browsing at a bookstore would shrink away in fear and, maybe, boredom. Who wants to read about viral diseases anyway? But Penenberg refused to budge. Viral Loop — he felt — perfectly encapsulated what the book was about.

But weeks into the launch of Viral Loop, he began to have serious misgivings. Trouble was that the mainstream media didn’t get the title. Worse, it didn’t get the book. In Penenberg’s own words, here was the dilemma: “While I wanted to talk about viral coefficients, viral business plans and success stories… mainstream interviewers wanted to know how to sign up for Twitter. Clearly there are the social media haves and the social media have nots. How do you reach the latter without alienating the former?”

I think I can answer that question. Just read his brilliantly researched and briskly written book, which lucidly explains the concept of a viral business. It also traces the analogue history of viral loops with examples like Tupperware and Amway. Simply put, a viral business works when a product is so good that it gets you to recommend it to all your friends.

They in turn pass it on to their friends and as the product moves from one social cluster to another, it hits a viral loop
But there’s a flipside to all the free, unrestricted sharing going on in the internet. While some companies bloom, others — like the music industry and now the newspaper one, — are dying. Will they be able to stop this virality? Penenberg doesn’t dwell on this. Nonetheless, his words sound prophetic: “At our essence we are viral creatures. Creating viral-loop businesses are just a small part of who we are and what we do.”