Viral Loop: Using Facebook and the iPhone to promote something called a ‘book’

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Writing a book in 2009 is a tricky thing to pull off. Never mind the research, the interviews, or the writing, but then you have to face facts: who reads in 2009? Unless you’re Dan Brown or Stephen King or Glenn Beck, odds are your book, no matter how thorough or well-written, isn’t exactly going to fly off the shelves. What will fly off the virtual shelves, though, is an iPhone App. You see where I’m headed. Adam Penenberg, who’s a contributing writer over at Fast Company magazine (and an old professor of mine from back in my NYU days), has developed an iPhone and Facebook App called “Viral Loop” to help raise awareness of his latest book, Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves. Let’s take a look.

The App, which is only in Facebook form right now (the iPhone App will be released within two weeks), basically tries to tell you how much your worth, socially. Let’s say Little Timmy has 100 friends on Facebook, who each have 100 friends of their own. Little Susie, on the other hand, has 150 friends, who each have 200 friends of their own. Timmy, though, uses Facebook all day long, while Susie only uses it sparingly. Viral Loop will take all that into account—number of friends, how “active” you are online, etc. then come up with a dollar amount. Bam! You’re worth $20, you’re worth $50, you’re worth $1,000, etc.

There’s even a leader-board to see who ranks where. Note that Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo is worth more than God himself. You would think that the being whose image we were all created in would be worth more than a professional footballer!

If all of this seems like a glorified popularity contest, well, isn’t that what all these sites are about? Who has more Facebook “friends,” I have more Twitter followers than you so I’m obviously better than you, etc.

As it turns out, I’m worth a whopping $94.60, which seems about right, both on Facebook and in real life. Sell me, and maybe you can buy a nice pair of jeans.

And as for the iPhone App, which, again, should be available to download in less than two weeks, it’ll be some sort of pseudo gambling game where you can spend your Viral Loop money on certain events. Will Twitter announce a business model by the end of 2010? (I’ll put $20 on that.) How many people will download Google Chrome OS during the first 24 hours of its release? That sort of thing.

You’ll remember that all of this is about a book. It represents the first time, to my knowledge, that an author has gone to such great lengths to promote his book using social media. The over-arching idea is, of course, once you get people hooked on this idea of viral loops and all that jazz, you’ll want to learn all you can about it, and buy the book.

The things you do to get people reading these days!

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