One of the most powerful techniques for getting your message spread in social is one rarely talked about. I’m talking about the social ramp-up.

‘Ramp up’ is originally a business term for when a business see a sudden but anticipated market increase. When you’re involved with online- and tech startups, you often hear them discussing what different online services or networks are ‘ramping up’ at the moment. But what is this online phenomenon? And can it be used for PR purposes?

How Ramp Ups Work

You have all seen ramp ups in action, especially in social media. 

Let’s say you find a new cool service social network on the web. You sign up, using for instance Facebook or Twitter to login. Via this feature, the web service or social network will be able to upload your social graph (your friends, followers, and connections). For legal reasons, the website or app can’t use this information to spam all of your connections. However, what it can do, is to prompt the user into doing the heavy lifting.

The app or website will ask you to connect with your social connections who are already using the service.

This technique isn’t growing the service or social network directly, simply because it targets only those who have already signed up. But this allows the app or website to send the users a notification. Why is this so important?

If the app or website were to send its user messages about new features, new deals, and new campaigns, this would all be push messages. However, if you get a notification informing you that one of your social connections has joined, this is to be classified as a social signal instead.

Social Signals

Push messages from brands are often perceived to be spammy. Social signals, on the other hand, will time after time induce sparks in the reward centre of your brain, connecting you much closer to the brand — by association.

This is for instance how Facebook and many other social networks get users to open up their apps and websites many times more than you otherwise would have. Many of us, including myself, have a hard time resisting checking out those bright red notification badges. As such, social signals are extremely powerful and even addictive.

In many ways, we perceive social signals to be direct contacts not with the brand, but with our very own social circles.

To secure return traffic and habit building, most apps and websites require you to log into your account to “accept” incoming social signals. You often have to click the notification to actually find out what your connection wants with you. And we do it; often times for the sole purpose of not being rude towards our friends.

The Bomb Mat

Some services will take the ramp up even further by allowing you to “add all” your existing connections in one push of a button. It becomes a bomb mat of social signals going out.

As more and more people in your social circles join, the effects of these bomb mats grows exponentially.

The app or website can even notify existing users whenever a contact from their social graphs signs up by prompting them to log back in and send a social signal to the newly joined friend.

By ramping up, the app or website can grow while simultaneously increasing engagement — all without having to send any spammy push messages to anyone.

Ramp-Up with Caution

We all know how the ramp up works — and most of us have experienced several of them ourselves. And most of us are bombarded with social signals and bomb mats on a daily basis.

Still, many brands forget to add this strategy to their online launches. I think that this is due to the fact that many online entrepreneurs are focusing on their outbound audience instead of their inbound.

So yes, we should all learn to leverage the mighty ramp up to enhance our digital PR strategies. But we must also stay strong and advise against any social graph abuse. Handle with caution.

Photo by Jimmy Musto on Unsplash.

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one platform that instantly comes to mind is Pinterest. I believe their ramp up is one of the (many) reasons for its success. In the beginning, users couldn’t get on the platform w/o an invite. This added mystique and intrigue w/ the platform itself. Plus, users weren’t allowed to use anything other than their Facebook or Twitter accounts to login – which, as you noted, causes friends to come back. This  creates a domino effect of fascination on many levels. Of course, it also helps that it’s beautifully designed…and quite addicting!
I love that you blogged about this…certainly an interesting topic that is rarely discussed. well done!