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#6.01: The “$1.6 Billion Question” Issue

Why did YouTube sell for $1.6 billion when there were dozens of other video sharing sites? It’s all about “tell a friend” links.

1> Ask
2> Ask everywhere
3> Make it easy
4> Check it out: Free Seth Godin book

1> Ask

What’s the #1 way to get people to spread word of mouth for you? Just ask. We love to tell our friends about things we like, but we don’t always think to do it.

YouTube’s user experience revolves around a single idea: Asking you to forward a video to a friend. It’s what turned them into a self-promoting viral community instead of just a video-storage site. It’s how they got their $1.6 billion.

Just asking people to share is enough. When people hear “Tell a Friend” or see a link — they do it. (Trust me, far more people are telling a friend than may be clicking on the link you provide. It’s the reminder that counts.)

Lesson: Start proactively asking your customers to recommend you.

2> Ask everywhere

Put “tell a friend” on every single page of your web site. Think about it: Someone is looking at a page. They want to share it. That means that they want to advertise for you, for free. This is the best promotion you will ever get – genuine word of mouth. Don’t make them leave the page or go through a complicated log-in. Just give them a link or a form so they can start spreading the word.

The Lesson: Ask for word of mouth wherever the user is inspired to share it.

3> Make it easy

You get more word of mouth when you give the user simple and quick ways to share — in the way they most want to do it. See nr_

The easier you make it, the more forwards you get. This is what Seth Godin calls “smoothness” in “Unleashing the Ideavirus.”

Every single video on YouTube has at least 13 ways to tell a friend: Link to it, MySpace, email a link, let YouTube email a link, send it to a pre-saved list of friends, Digg,, Furl, Stumple, Reddit, post to your blog, and share with a group — plus a reminder after you watch the video.

Lesson: Easy quick sharing, the user’s way, equals free advertising.

4> Check it out: Free Seth Godin book

Seth Godin’s “Unleashing the Ideavirus” is the incredibly useful guide to spreading word of mouth. It’s assigned reading in the course I teach at Northwestern (nr_ Check out how Seth encourages free viral sharing of the book … which resulted in incredible paid sales.

Here’s what it says on page 3:

Here’ s what you can do to spread the word about Unleashing the Ideavirus: 1. Send this file to a friend (it’s sort of big, so ask first). 2. Send them a link to so they can download it themselves. 3. Visit to read the Fast Company article. 4. Buy a copy of the hardcover book at . 5. Print out as many copies as you like.

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