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So This is How Mobile Apps Go Viral: Secretes Decoded

Alekh Verma | March 1, 2024
How Are Mobile Apps Going Viral_

Do you remember FaceApp? How social media and the internet world got flooded with old- age photos. People fascinated to see their old-age picture using FaceApp and impressed by such technology to witness their future in the present.  

A mobile app based on AI (Artificial Intelligence) model and giving the features to the audience they never expected made FaceApp viral all over the world in a short span of time.

Viral, popularity, trending, addiction are the hot signs of success of a mobile app. But viral is the tag that makes anything popular, trending, addictive, and valuable at the same time. Whether it is content, video, photos, or mobile app, there is a hidden secret and psychology that makes anything into viral.

FaceApp’s instant popularity revealed many secrets to app development companies and businesses.

What secret?

How to make an app go viral?

Not only FaceApp, but many mobile apps from different app categories hit the market and burst out amazingly before this also. In gaming-PUBG, Candy Crush Saga, Pokémon Go, in social messaging- WhatsApp, Facebook, and recently in 2018, TikTok.

Making a mobile app go viral is a mysterious science what companies and businesses constantly researching and working to find out the shortest routes to make their app viral or popular instantly.

There are 2.87 million Android apps on Google Play Store and 1.96 million iOS apps on Apple App Store as of 2020. Out of them, only 10-20 mobile apps have gone viral and gained huge popularity on the internet.

So, does it sound really easy?

Of course not!

How mobile apps go viral is the most secretive and lucrative topic to understand.

Today in this blog, you will learn everything that makes a mobile app go viral and how to attract users that hits millions of app downloads.

What is a Viral App?

A viral app is a mobile application that users or customers eagerly share across the internet and gains popularity in the shortest period of time.

A viral mobile app is like rocket fuel, it goes very fast through social networks, chat, and word of mouth.

What Happens When Apps Go Viral?

Learn from recent examples to understand the impact of apps going viral. 

Candy Crush Saga, going viral increased revenue by 1,150% in one year and boost its ranking to the up rapidly in 24 hours. 

TikTok, this app was considered snowballed in virality in 2018, got 275% growth in revenue over the next year and became the world's second most downloaded app in 2019. All this happened after going viral. 

In late 2019, FaceApp created a buzz all over the world and took the app stores by storm. Based on the AI-powered photo editing feature, despite having multiple filters to choose from, it went viral for making users’ faces “older or younger ". This particular app feature helped FaceApp generate 12.7 million downloads in just over a week in July 2019.

All of this is the gigantic impact of going viral. 

Amazing, isn't it?

So, What Does Being Viral Mean?

When users like something and become eager to share a video, image, content, app, or anything with other users, and this circulation goes rapidly and widely from one user to another, this state is called being viral. 

This viral outbreak is often called a 'viral loop', where information about an app keeps circulating over and over in a loop until it quickly reaches millions of users or people.

How To Make Your App Go Viral?

1. Create a Viral Loop : The Base of Virality

A stage-wise loop that follows a user's journey when they first see an app, install it, get inspired to share, then eventually share it with others.

viral loop

Image Source:

So, if a mobile app is attracting users, capturing their attention (in terms of app user acquisition), then circulate the app around the world, and finally let all users grow into a larger user base rapidly, in this way a viral loop is created.

For instance, TikTok kept inspiring users to share their videos on social media using the app. They did so intentionally that it attracted others to install and use the app- so it created a loop that went repeating and repeating, and this is how TikTok succeeded.

2. Use Hook Model: To Make Your App Addictive

Hook Model is a four-stage repeating process that businesses use to create products or services used habitually by users or customers. The goal is to create a product usage habit by customers. Thus, this model helps in making an app that can go viral on the app store.

The Four Stages of Hook Model That Make Your App Addictive- 

Trigger: To get users hooked to an app, a trigger is required. These triggers are divided into two types: 

External Trigger: This trigger is based on external information. It could be a notification, ad image, ratings or reviews, emails, recommendation (word of mouth), button, etc. External triggers play a sensitive role in influencing users to utilize any feature of the app. 

Internal Trigger: This trigger establishes the reason why an app is developed, i.e. they define the goal behind creating a viral or addictive app.

Such as, you can create an app feature that can ease people's boredom by offering them apps related to Games/Video Streaming/Entertainment/Social, or making a difference through an entirely new app concept. 

Both triggers affect a user’s action. For instance, an external trigger could be the images of delicious foods, then its advertisement form an internal trigger. In this way, both together can attract customers to order food.

Action: After trigger, it's time to hit the intended action. Action depends on the ability and eagerness of users. When a user intent to take an action as per his capability, that becomes a win-win situation for the app.

How does it happen?

A user opened a social media app offering the latest news. He or She read some articles and aspired to share the most interesting one with friends on Facebook. They tapped the Facebook share icon and get it done easily. In this process, users get eager for an action (to share the article) and possess the ability to do so.

Reward: Reward is the best method to motivate users for action. A reward is generally any kind of appreciation, acceptance, or attention given to the users, in return for any action that they perform. 

For example:

  • Offering cashback on frequent usage of the app
  • Providing free access to content
  • Putting the top names in the list

Investment: When a user gets hooked on your app, he/she starts investing. In this context, an investment is a user's reaction to the hook. Hook model keeps users engaged to your app such as image filters on SnapChat, likes/comment/share on Facebook, tweets on Twitter. 

How the Hook Model Made Instagram Viral?

Instagram is a photo-sharing app for web and mobile platforms. It enables users to share their images privately or publicly with unique filters. 

Launched 7 years ago (6 Oct 2013), this app made a huge user base of over 1 billion active users today from 800 million in Sep 2017. Here Hook model made Instagram go viral and build a large user base in a short span of time.

3. Create Incredible Feature: To Inspire Users to Share Enthusiastically

This is undisputedly the most important key to make your app go viral. A mobile app simply can't become viral if its users have no taste of sharing (or recommending) it to others. People have human nature to share something good or interesting with others. And businesses use this human psychology to make their app viral or popular quickly.

This could be any feature like photo filters (FacApp, Instagram), quick video editing or animation (TikTok), etc. If you can build an app that can give something incredible to users, chances are there your app can go viral instantly.

4. Give Emotional or Physical Stimulation: Personalized Features

People are driven by their emotions. If an app can make them feel good or inspired, they will surely like to share it. Something related to their face, age, taste, dream, voice, habit, or art skills that users find your app personalized and become emotional, it is possible that your app may become contagious and users will love to share it soon. As a result, your app will be able to start the viral loop.

Learn from viral apps

TikTok created a platform where users receive "an equal chance at fame" later it went viral after stimulating the "feel good" sign of pride. Eventually, users can easily and equally become famous simply by creating and sharing their TikTok videos on social media.

5. Create a Fear Factor (FOMO): What if I miss this?

Whoever your target audience for your viral campaigns, they must establish a strong, immediate connection with your app. However, this connection can last temporarily.

People normally have an urge to involve in a viral campaign or try out a viral app straight away to satisfy their curiosity or to cope with a fear of missing out (FOMO).

In this context, your app should intensify the sense of urgency, exclusivity, scarcity, trendiness, and so on, that attracts everyone to be a part of it.

Learn from these examples.

  • Gmail's exclusive invite-only initial launch
  • ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
  • Candy Crush Saga's asking their friends for help to install the game.

A unique app feature or functionality can transform fear of not trying something into viral.

6. Send Out a mass call-to-action (CTA): Call out the world

A call-to-action (CTA) is a powerful campaign strategy to invite the audience to make action. In most viral campaigns or loops, this method is generally used to motivate users to spread or share an app or content because it is getting viral. 

You can create a specific CTA button to motivate mass to use your app. 


  • Instagram CTA: Download on the App Store | Get it on Google Play
  • TikTok CTA: Trends Start Here |Download the app to get started. 

7. Focus on App Store Optimization (ASO): To track the flow

App Store Optimization is the process of optimizing apps to rank higher in the search results of app stores. Thus, ASO is essential to determine the success of an app. It can be divided into two parts: Pre-Release ASO and Post-Release ASO.

Pre-Release ASO

  • Logo
  • Screenshots
  • Targeted Keywords
  • Title & Description
  • Category
  • Demo Video
  • Social Profiles
  • Localization 

Post-Release ASO

  • Number of downloads
  • Number of installs and uninstalls
  • Quality of ratings and reviews
  • Download growth (last 30days)
  • App usage frequency
  • Social Presence
  • Backlinks
  • Social Presence
  • App Website/Landing Page

These ASO techniques can help you monitor and support the flow of viral campaigns of your app.

8. Make Your App Easy To Share: Let it spread fast

Sharing is the most influential factor in enhancing app's virality. The ultimate goal of viral marketing is to inspire people to share a piece of information, content, video, or app with one another. It should be like a contagious virus- spread from person to person. Your app should do exactly the same.

And to make it happen easily, you should enable a sharing button once users achieve a specific milestone; then motivate them to share it on social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.

Be creative and think out of the box. You should come up with brainstorming ideas that create different opportunities for such viral functions and make them flow naturally with user experience.

9. Create a Viral Marketing Campaign: People like to Interact  

It is not necessary to invest in paid ads, or master SEO and content marketing. All of these marketing methods take time to make your app popular and successful.

Therefore, you should create a viral marketing campaign straightaway. It could be promoting campaign on popular social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, or using word of mouth strategy. You can create a viral contest that rewards significantly to the participants. 

10. Give Users Control: Privacy is above all

Virality and privacy are opposite pillars. Many popular apps which became popular faced privacy concerns. From TikTok to FaceApp, any app that is taking user's information, even they become viral, privacy and data security is the vital concern that everyone cares a lot.

Therefore, your app should be transparent in nature. Be upfront regarding what your app is sharing- give users complete control over whether to share.

If users don't find your app reliable or suddenly see content posted on social networks that they really don’t want to be shared, they will stop using your app, or even leave negative reviews on App Store, or social media platforms. Make sure your app provides security to users' data and be transparent in what is being shared.

11. Measure your App's Virality: Stay viral, not calm

Getting popular is easy, your app may succeed with a great number of downloads in its initial stage of launching. However, there is difference between being popular and viral.  

Popularity can take a long time but not viral. That is why you shouldn’t be settled down assuming your app gone popular. Make sure it is getting on the track of being viral.

You can determine whether your app has gone viral by measuring app's virality.

How to measure app virality? 

Calculate the Viral app coefficient (k-factor) from this formula to know how much your app is viral.

  • Viral Coefficient = Signup Invitee/Initial Users
  • Invitee Signup= Invitee Percentage x Invitation Rate
  • Invitation Rate= Initial Users x Invites

It is necessary to have value of the viral coefficient more than 1. If your app has a viral coefficient greater than 20, it is said to grow in the user base aspect. This metric is helpful in monitor your app's virality and its download growth rate. However, this is just an indicator of virality, not the solution. 

12. Invite Influencers: Influence the Influencers

Getting popular is a steady process, but becoming viral is like rocket booster process. Your app may acquire sufficient number of users and installs, despite this; it is still not sure how fast your app will gain exposure from users to users. 

Therefore, to ignite your app go viral is to get the right people talking about it. In the age of social media, influencers are the king. Mere a single tweet or post by a celebrity or personality can boost your app's exposure and can push it go viral. 


Viral marketing for mobile apps is probably the most unpredictable part of mobile app marketing. Whatever your viral marketing strategy is, it will always come down to the end users how intuitively and naturally they kick-off the viral loop.

You will never know what's on their minds or what will truly motivate them to share your app around. Apps go viral when brands master the right strategy of relevance, tone, and implementation. Following key factors can help your app's chances of going viral: 

  • Bring something extra-ordinary feature that makes people go crazy.
  • Offer something entertaining yet meaningful to share.
  • Be transparent regarding what your app is sharing and whom it is sharing.
  • Your app should have ease of connecting with friends and inviting new users.
  • Reward both users and their invited friends.
  • Keep engaging users with incentives, meaningful notifications, contests, rewards, and promotions.
  • Your app should be useful even to the lone user. This is the start of the Hook model. 

By implementing these key metrics of viral marketing for mobile app, you can define features that will differentiate it not just from competitors, but from every other app in the market.

Millions of pieces of content are created every second in the form of blog posts, tweets, YouTube videos, and photos. So, even big companies can struggle to stand out in the race.

If you have an app concept that you believe people will fall in love with, collaborate with our app development team at eSearch Logix that can help you create an app with a compelling message, a user-friendly feature, and a killer marketing strategy- to make your app go viral.

Alekh Verma

CEO and Founder at eSearch Logix Technologies!

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