Book Review: Viral Loop by Adam L. Penenberg

69122953 out of 5 Stars

I’m slowly chipping away at my goal to read more non-fiction books. My latest non-fiction read was Viral Loop, a history of the viral dissemination of information, marketing, and products.

The Background

Here’s something you may not know about today’s Internet. Simply by designing your product the right way, you can build a flourishing business from scratch. No advertising or marketing budget, no need for a sales force, and venture capitalists will flock to throw money at you.

Many of the most successful Web 2.0 companies, including MySpace, YouTube, eBay, and rising stars like Twitter and Flickr, are prime examples of what journalist Adam L. Penenberg calls a “viral loop”–to use it, you have to spread it. After all, what’s the sense of being on Facebook if none of your friends are? The result: Never before has there been the potential to create wealth this fast, on this scale, and starting with so little.

In this game-changing must-read, Penenberg tells the fascinating story of the entrepreneurs who first harnessed the unprecedented potential of viral loops to create the successful online businesses–some worth billions of dollars–that we have all grown to rely on. The trick is that they created something people really want, so much so that their customers happily spread the word about their product for them.

All kinds of businesses–from the smallest start-ups to nonprofit organizations to the biggest multinational corporations–can use the paradigm-busting power of viral loops to enable their business through technology. Viral Loop is a must-read for any entrepreneur or business interested in uncorking viral loops to benefit their bottom line.

My Thoughts?

This book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I picked it up hoping to learn something about marketing and how to create viral media. But instead, Viral Loop gives a very thorough history of companies and ideas that have gone viral over the years. Big names like Facebook and Twitter were thrown around, but I was slightly surprised to also learn about pyramid schemes and Tupperware, the original viral business, which shot from a basement hobby in the 1940’s all the way up to the million dollar household name it is today.

Whether discussing Tupperware, HotOrNot, Twitter, Flickr, or YouTube, Viral Loop walks through each company’s history from it’s creation, growth, all the way up to the present. It was intriguing to learn some of the humble origins behind eBay, PayPal, MySpace, and Hotmail. It’s not often you get to learn about the gritty details and speed bumps faced by organizations like patent lawsuits, software glitches, hardware scaling difficulties, rampant pornography, money laundering, and the list goes on.

Overall the writing style was smooth and easy to follow. That being said, it was a bit on the dry side, making the book feel like a drudge at times. Maybe it was the fact that some of the information is pretty out of date already, but it felt just a bit stale. Despite that, the stories and anecdotes were interesting enough to keep me reading.

Overall I give Viral Loop 3 out of 5 stars. If you’re looking to learn about marketing or creating your own viral business, this is not the book for you. But if you want a thorough and sometimes humorous history or viral business growth through the ages, give this one a shot!

Happy Reading!

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