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Weekend Statitics for this blogThis last weekend saw the launch of the first ever viral for StumbleUpon, the StumbleCard. I watched it unfold, reported on it and joined in the traffic rush. We have received 6500+ visitors so far to our news post. The cards themselves have received hundreds of reviews and bookmarks and presumably much more traffic than us. In this post I have given some reasons why this was successful and suggested some improvements for future viral campaigns.

The first point though is that StumbleUpon accepts advertising. The StumbleCard viral could form a blueprint for another company wishing to use StumbleUpon for their own approved campaigns. By following the sponsored route you would be supporting Stumbleupon and answer many of the critics who see virals as spam. To be clear; I don’t see Stumbleupon as a place to push Adsense or affiliate marketing but I can definitely see it as a place to build buzz for a new product, company or film.

People Like to Be Entertained

Viral Marketing Doesn’t Work…tell everyone you knowThere were many positive comments at the beginning of this viral. People like to be entertained and be a part of something out of the ordinary. The characteristic of a good marketing plan is that it engages the audience. If you come up with a boring and transparent idea, people will soon turn off. You have to break the mold and create some genuine excitement.

StumbleUpon Landing Pages

StumbleCards appeared on a white background with no trace of the usual website features, such as navigation. The layout guaranteed the user’s attention and let them know this was not just another web page. The logo and page language were designed to directly target the StumbleUpon user. In effect these were landing pages that had been optimized for the StumbleUpon audience.

Images Are Everything

The meme was started with the following two cards. However the first card to truly take off, with 195 reviews was a copycat, a vivid Joker image (now offline). StumbleUpon users are very visual; images seem to be bookmarked as often as posts on the site. It would be fair to assume that the quality of images played a significant part in the viral taking hold.

Multiple URLs Are Required

The creator of the StumbleCards attempted to launch all the cards from a single URL. The problem here is that StumbleUpon has controls and limits on the number of submissions per URL. Soon his cards were not showing up on tag pages and other sites were dominating the results. To be more successful, it is clear you should use several different sites and web addresses. This is also allowed under the SU advertisers TOS:

Can I promote multiple URLs?
Yes, you may promote as many different URLs as you wish. They many be on the same or different domains. To promote a new URL, you can create a new campaign.

Virals Must Move Quickly

Continued Growth Requires Virus to MorphAs David Hornik suggested at FOO Camp ’06, continued growth requires the virus to morph. We can see that to some extent with the anti-StumbleCards however this should have happened quicker with the main concept. When users first saw the cards many were intrigued, wondering where this was going? Without the next step they were left to conclude the worse, that this was just another attempt to game Stumbleupon for traffic.

Virals in the social space need to have a clear game plan and move quickly, far quicker than offline campaigns.

Virals Need to Deliver

When a user clicks on a great headline, they expect to read a quality article. All buzz and no content makes users feel suckered. In the same way a great viral idea needs to deliver. The user needs some closure at the end of the event. With the StumbleCard viral, users are encouraged to collect all the cards. Why? There is an implicit suggestion that you can win something. One idea here would be to tie your promotion into a competition or giveaway. Rewarding people for their participation is a positive end to any campaign.

On my closing note though, it seems the original idea is not yet over. With any luck I’ll have some feedback from the creator this week and some hints about why he started all this and where it is heading. As usual your thoughts are welcome.


We’ve just had some traffic figures (in German) in for the Joker card. Referrers were as follows; Direct (no referrer) 53’000, StumbleUpon 37,500, 936. Thanks for sharing that data.

** FOO Camp pictures by Davemc500hats, one of many artists who make their work under a Creative Commons license at Flickr – thank you!
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Lead SEO, Group Optimisation at Vodafone. Founder at E3 Business Incubator, a consultancy group helping enterprises and start-ups. Digital strategist and veteran SEO/SEM. Views are my own and not representative of my employer (more).

3 Responses to Blueprint for a StumbleUpon Viral

  1. ah yes… one of my favorite photos ;)

    (btw, mr. hornik’s first name is “david”)

  2. Thanks Dave, I’ve just corrected that. Great t-shirt ;)

  3. Pingback: Interview With StumbleCards Creator, Adam Atom

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