Most viral online content relies heavily on social media to spread the word.Flash sale design site Fab, for example, reached 1 million users in five months thanks to a social sign up scheme.
How did sites become popular before Twitter or Facebook existed? And how do you spread the word if your target demographic doesn’t tweet?
Michael Acton Smith is the founder of Moshi Monsters, a fast-growing site for kids that has 60 million users. Founded in England in 2008, it wasn’t always easy for Smith’s site to get traffic.
His target age group is between ages 6 and 11. That is too young to create a profile page — it’s even too young to add a pin on Pinterest.
After one year of pounding the pavement, Moshi Monster’s traffic began to take off (see chart).
We asked Smith how he created a viral product without using any social media at all.
Create your own social features
Moshi Monster may not have Twitter or Facebook integration, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t social.
Moshi Monsters is really just a social network for children. On it, they can send monitored messages to friends, share links to their monster’s pages, or adopt and play with a pet monster.
If you can’t use other social media sites, find a way for users to engage with each other without ever leaving your domain.
Encourage users to share offlineMoshi Monsters gives each child a simple url and username so they easily remember and share it in offline conversations.
Don’t underestimate mobile apps. People who don’t know what Twitter is know how to use a phone
Even babies can use an iPad or an iPhone. Smith says little kids are fans of mobile apps and they pester parents to download them.
“People used to say, ‘Kids are never going to download apps.’ That has proven to be absolutely wrong,” says Smith. “Once a child hits ages 7-9, phones and iPads become the hottest gifts.
Also, as Apple continues to release new iPhones, parents pass down old devices to children.
Use offline products to drive online products
Smith has launched everything from Moshi Monster music albums to birthday cakes and playing cards. He has 100 licenses and pulls in a 5-20% royalty from each. His toys are sold in major stores like Toys R Us.
All of the initiatives support his website.
Create something people love
“There is no more viral mechanism than making something people love,” says Smith.