15 Best Viral Tools for Building & Scaling Pre-Launches, Waitlists, Competitions & Contests (2023)
I’ve had some good success with viral campaigns (competitions, contests, referrals, and more) across eCommerce and SaaS. There are many variables that can determine the success of your campaigns, and it’s genuinely really hard and a big challenge to make a campaign ‘go viral’. However, a key component that goes into these types of campaigns, which in the past has been quite expensive to build, is the technology. Now, there are platforms and tools to build these types of campaigns which, over time, have become easier, cheaper, and more accessible. I’m excited to highlight and take you through some of my personal favourites with which I’ve tested and had some good experiences using.
I've been a Growth Marketer for 8+ years (eCommerce/DTC 6+ years), and love developing strategies and executing channels for eCommerce/Shopify brands. I've used hundreds (and hundreds) of software tools to help execute on key strategies for eCommerce growth, and I'm here to help highlight which tools, software and apps can help you scale your store.
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As a growth marketing consultant for many years, some of the top questions I often get asked are particularly around how to make a campaign ‘go viral’, or what software can help build a viral referral engine for pre-launch campaigns or competitions. Questions like these…
“Hey Dan, what’s involved in getting a lot of emails in a short span of time?”
“Hey Dan, what tools can help get a campaign to go viral?”
“Hey Dan, what is the best platform to create viral competitions to get heaps of entries and emails?”
“Hey Dan, which software can help create a viral pre-launch waitlist for my startup?”
“Hey Dan, I want to replicate the success of what ‘X’ startup managed to achieve. What’s the best software to do this?”
There are plenty of other questions I get that are similar to these, and all of the questions I receive are really good.
However, expectation management is key, as well as context. It’s actually a hard challenge to make a campaign or competition ‘go viral’.
Having said that, with the right investment, resources, and planning, it is becoming easier to develop end-to-end campaigns that have the potential to go viral.
A key component of what needs to be involved in a campaign, and giving it the best chance of success, comes down to choosing the right software that can enable capabilities of virality.
Taking into account all the questions I’ve been asked over the years, I’m excited to put this guide together to share some of my top recommendations that I’ve personally had good experiences with when working with clients, brands, and startups.
When it comes to choosing which viral tool is best for your business and primary campaign objective, what attributes and features should you be looking for?
Before diving into this guide full of awesome viral tools, it’s important to have some guidance into what factors and attributes can help you properly evaluate and choose the right platform for your business, plus whatever the key objective is that you’re wanting to achieve.
It’s important to understand what your goal is, as the various solutions will be more applicable to certain objectives (for example, UGC contests and referral engines) over others.
I’ve got here below some questions and items I normally look out for when it comes to researching viral marketing platforms. You can use the below as a baseline for things to look for when going through the tools. Questions to think about include:
What particular features and types of campaigns do they offer? Is the platform more skewed in terms of features as a social media contest platform? Or does it have features more applicable for pre-launch waitlists?
What contest types can you choose from? Can you run Facebook contests? Instagram contests? Pinterest maybe?
How advanced are the entries and rewards capabilities? Are multi-tiered rewards available? Do they offer points per entry?
How do they successfully track entries? Is fraud protection available? (unfortunately, people will always try find a way around the entry mechanisms to try gain extra entries).
What do the design customisation options look like?
When it comes to installation, can you embed a custom branded widget on a custom landing page that you created?
Does the platform provide automated email capabilities, or do you need to create emails yourself? (for example, emails could include updates on number of entries, or when a user has successfully referred someone).
What available 3rd-party integrations do they have? Do they provide Zapier, which can help unlock more integration possibilities?
What does the paid plan look like for each of the platforms? Do they offer unlimited giveaway campaigns and/or unlimited entries? What certain features or benefits can you unlock if you decide to upgrade?
Are there templates available to accelerate the process of building campaigns and workflows?
Do they offer case studies that highlight how companies have leveraged their platform to build campaigns for success?
Funnily enough, whilst there may be quite a few questions here to consider, this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Every platform will have items you will need to do further research on in order to decide which platform is worth trialling and, ultimately, worth adopting for your campaigns.
Alrighty, let’s dive into these viral marketing tools and understand what’s possible to build an awesome campaign (and achieve epic results).
Set up in 2016 in the US, Vyper facilitates individuals in building giveaways, reward programs, and viral contests to boost brand loyalty and generate revenue by maximising paid media. It’s been featured in Social Media Examiner, Crazy Egg, Semrush, Entrepreneur, and Inc. They have some epic case studies that you should check out, including how this eCommerce brand ran a viral contest and collected 41k+ emails, and a huge amount of other social share numbers.
Pros & features I love
Its user-friendly visual designer makes developing stunning modern designs convenient with the help of a drag-and-drop editor that allows you to format the header, fonts, button options, and content area to best suit your brand.
You can create new bonus actions from scratch or leverage ready-to-use ones for Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Spotify, and other platforms to ensure visitors convert and engage in a breeze.
To enhance your marketing efforts, Vyper offers a wide variety of integrations, such as Zapier, Klaviyo, ConvertKit, MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, and Campaign Monitor.
The platform allows you to curate an intercom-style widget to make sure your site visitors are constantly reminded of your reward program or campaign and lure them into taking valuable action.
What’s amazing about this software is that you can use it and try it out for free until you’re ready to launch a campaign.
However, there are two paid tiers – enterprise and agency. The enterprise plan is ideal for serious marketers and comes with a price tag of $149/month. The agency plan lets you use it for up to 10 brands for $299/month.
Set up in 2015 in the Netherlands, UpViral is the ultimate viral referral software that lets marketers run viral campaigns, ranging from contests to giveaways.
Furthermore, it offers world-class support through email and live chat to accommodate its customers. It even has received raves from Neil Patel, Entrepreneur, and Foundr.
UpViral provides you with all the templates and infrastructure for sweepstakes, which you can gamify with smart leaderboards to boost competition and drive more referrals.
You can create rewards for any niche, from downloadable files and software downloads to coupon codes. The automatic reward delivery system tracks and rewards subscribers based on their milestones to save you manual work.
The triple A/B testing feature allows you to test your campaigns before actually launching them to maximise your referrals and revenue and keep your costs to a minimum.
You can present your viral campaigns in different styles, such as full page, embedded form, pop-up form, and pop-over widget, that best suit your business needs.
UpViral has 3 paid plans – starter, business, and premium. What’s amazing is that you can try any of these plans for only $1 for 14 days. After your almost-free trial expires, you can have full access to the starter, business, and premium plans for $79, $119, and $299 per month, respectively.
Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, Gleam lets you achieve your marketing goals to expand your business in a cinch. From increasing the number of email subscribers, Facebook likes, and Twitter followers to encouraging individuals to mention your business using a branded hashtag, its campaigns help you achieve it all.
They have some amazing viral success stories from brands such as Adore Me, Beardbrand, Shopify (yes, Shopify themselves), and many other awesome brands.
Pros & features I love
Gleam seamlessly integrates with more than 100 marketing partners and social media sites such as Mailchimp, Shopify, Instagram, Twitch, YouTube, and Bitly to scale your business.
You can get your hands on ready-to-use, converting templates for a variety of marketing efforts like sweepstakes, refer-a-friend, photo contests, giveaways, surveys, and pre-launch awareness, which also support 25 languages.
It quickly draws and displays winners in your widget by filtering out invalid entries and verifying real winners to save you the hard work and time.
Gleam also lets you easily create rewards using ready-made rewards templates that unlock with specific actions like downloads, links, and redirects to help you achieve your desired goals.
As you create an account with this software, you will be allowed to use the free plan for unlimited competitions but limited features and user data.
You can avail of the individual apps (competitions at $10/month, rewards at $29/month, galleries at $29/month, and captures at $29/month) by paying for each of them only. The full package starts from $97/month, featuring all apps.
ReferralCandy incentivises referrals and is a popular solution in particular for DTC brands and eCommerce stores. It’s a really nice UX and definitely an awesome option for anyone who is starting out with referral/WOM systems. It boasts some huge users as well, including the likes of Colgate, Tupperware and Steve Madden.
Additionally, it has gotten shout-outs from HubSpot, Forbes, The New York Times, and Adweek.
Pros & features I love
Referral Candy automatically promotes your business on your behalf by setting rules for when you want to invite your customers for referral, like after checkout or the last email. At the same time, it tracks successful referrals and detects suspicious referral activities to optimise your operations.
The data-driven insights help you track sales generated from referrals, get to know about your top referrers, and measure your referral program performance against the industry benchmark to stay ahead of your competitors.
You can use ready-made converting templates to boost sales while saving time or easily edit them, even using HTML and CSS. Even better, its templates are optimised for all devices.
This software lets you use your referral program to its full potential through a variety of marketing channels, such as landing pages, signup forms, emails, checkout popups, and existing newsletters.
Referral Candy offers 3 paid options. Premium and Plus plans come with a price tag of $59/month and $299/month, respectively, which you can try for free for 30 days. The enterprise plan features custom pricing, and you can book a demo by filling out a short form.
5. Viral Loops
With headquarters in London, England, Viral Loops is a robust all-in-one referral marketing tool for e-commerce, prelaunch, and newsletters. You can leverage templates (which are really awesome, with some based on famous campaigns many of us have heard of), analytics, and other valuable features to grow and track customer referrals.
Pros & features I love
You don’t have to waste hours launching your campaign since this platform features templates inspired by some of the best brands like Mailchimp and Airbnb to ensure you launch your campaign successfully in a few clicks.
You can customise campaign widgets in a breeze to best suit your brand with a variety of options, such as background colour, typography, and button text.
The real-time dashboard provides you with valuable insights to facilitate you in keeping an eye on your campaign performance based on specific channels and your participants’ reward and referral status for optimisation.
To help you export and import contacts without any hassle, this software offers a variety of integrations with various popular tools such as Slack, Facebook, Google Analytics, and Mailchimp.
Viral Loops has 4 paid plans. The startup, growing, and power plans cost $49, $99, and $299 per month, respectively. The “growing plan” comes with a really good trial period of 14 days. There is an Enterprise plan also available, which involves further customisation and other advanced options.
Furthermore, opting for yearly billing will allow you to save 30%!
With headquarters in Chicago, USA, GrowSurf automates customer acquisition while minimising costs through its referral program software that incentivises word-of-mouth referrals and scales your business organically. It’s even trusted by some top tech companies like SurveyMonkey, Microverse, and Solana.
Pros & features I love
To improve your marketing efforts, GrowSurf offers direct third-party integrations with a plethora of email marketing systems, CRM, and other tools such as Zapier, Slack, Klaviyo, HubSpot, Intercom, PayPal, and ConvertKit.
Rather than requiring users to sign up to share your brand, this software makes it easier for them by automatically creating a link for each individual to boost the number of referrals.
From creating and launching to managing referral programs, you don’t need assistance from any developer. You can automate almost every feature to save time and effort while maximising profits.
The admin dashboard is equipped with analytics and insights that allow you to keep an eye on essential metrics like social media shares and referral conversion rates to optimise your growth strategy.
GrowSurf offers 3 paid options, and you can always request a demo. The startup plan allows up to 10,000 participants and costs $775/month with annual payments. The business plan allows up to 25,000 participants, and the elite plan lets you choose the number of participants you like (which comes with custom pricing).
Established in 2012, ViralSweep is a viral sweepstakes and contest software that helps you build sweepstakes and contests and use them instantly on your website, so you can grow your email and SMS list and boost sales revenue.
It’s trusted by some of the best brands, like Apartment Therapy, Bruce Lee, and Qatar Airways.
Pros & features I love
ViralSweep effortlessly plugs into the most popular platforms and works on them, such as WordPress, BigCommerce, Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, and Magneto, for added convenience.
It lets you generate rules quickly for your sweepstakes with an official rules generator, personalise ready-to-use templates, and keep an eye on your business growth by tracking entries and social media growth.
You can create photo and video contests, allow people to vote on contest submissions and detect fraud to ensure you don’t have to do the hard work and only legitimate votes are registered.
This platform allows you to manage social media comment giveaways by automatically filtering all the qualified entries from the comment section and picking a random winner with a click of a button.
This software features 4 paid plans – starter at $49/month, business at $199/month, premium at $399/month, and elite at $999/month. You can also opt for a free trial before committing to test ViralSweep out, which runs for 7 days.
Furthermore, you can invest in a custom enterprise plan for your specific business needs if you really want to take things up a notch for scale.
Set up in 2014 with headquarters in Arizona, USA, AppVirality lets marketers create and automate referral marketing campaigns for SaaS and mobile apps, so your business can leverage the power of word-of-mouth marketing without any coding.
Pros & features I love
Whether a user installs your app or subscribes, you can create reward rules according to a variety of settings, such as reward types, referee, and invite channels, for referring.
You can create a customised look for your referral campaigns that best matches your brand with an easy-to-use tool based on various settings like background colour, text size, campaign image, etc.
With the help of detailed analytics, you can access easy-to-interpret graphs and charts as well as metrics to facilitate you in taking the most effective brand decisions.
This tool offers separate plans for mobile apps and SaaS. For SaaS, the basic plan costs $199 per month when billed annually, and you can also avail yourself of the free trial. The growth plan is a custom plan, and you can request a demo.
For mobile apps, there’s only a custom plan which also bills annually, and you can, again, request a demo for it.
Founded in 2016 with headquarters in Philadelphia, USA, ReferralHero boasts an all-in-one referral program to facilitate you in creating, managing, and tracking your referral program to expand your business.
Pros & features I love
To help you set up your ideal referral campaign, Referral Hero lets you contact technical marketing consultants and avail of helpful customer support around the clock.
This tool offers more than 500 external services integrations, such as Hubspot, Google Analytics, Squarespace, WordPress, and Zapier, so you can leverage it to its full potential.
It features an innovative anti-fraud algorithm that works 24/7 to only allow authentic referrals, and the ReCaptcha technology keeps bots at bay with your ReCaptcha key.
You can create the perfect referral program for your business with plenty of customisation options like widgets/forms, design, memorable referral links, social sharing, and translation.
This software comes with 3 different paid tiers – basic at $69/month, pro at $169/month, and premium at $299/month. You can also give ReferralHero a spin for 14 days before you have to commit.
Founded in 2016 in Athens, Greece, Woorise is an all-in-one lead generation and marketing tool to facilitate you in creating a plethora of interactive campaigns like forms, promotions, quizzes, landing pages, surveys, and more for audience engagement and brand awareness.
Pros & features I love
The easy-to-understand tracking data allows you to track your campaign performance based on real-time results for your sales, LPs, polls, quizzes, and surveys to help you adapt your marketing strategy accordingly down the road.
You can manage all the entries on one page, filter/search leads, manage winners, and even send personalised emails to keep your workflow well-organised.
The drag-and-drop campaign builder lets you add branded touch to eye-catching and optimised templates in a matter of minutes without any coding or editing skills.
This platform allows you to export all participants’ data in a CSV file while filtering and selecting the data that’s most relevant to you to make sharing and decision-making efficient.
This software offers a free plan that comes with only 200 entries per month but lets you try the pro plan for free for 14 days!
The 3 paid plans, basic, grow, and pro, are priced at $29, $49, and $249 per month, respectively.
KingSumo is an intuitive giveaway software that lets marketers and small businesses grow their audience through viral giveaways for their mailing lists, so you can cut your marketing costs and get more leads without any worries.
Pros & features I love
KingSumo allows you to set up your giveaway in a matter of minutes by simply setting the duration, adding the number of winners, offering virtual or physical goods, an image, and a CTA to lure site visitors into taking the right action while you quickly gain entries.
To make your marketing efforts a breeze, this platform seamlessly integrates with a variety of tools such as Zapier, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, and Klaviyo.
The detailed analytics feature lets you keep an eye on the conversion rates and traffic source and even collect entrants’ contact info, so you can optimise your campaign in the best way possible.
You can create GDPR-compliant giveaways for your peace of mind and engage a wider, global audience by opting from more than 20 languages, including Danish, Spanish, and French.
The great news is that you can get access to basic features for free, which is epic. It also has a really great lifetime plan that requires you to pay only $49 as a single payment to leverage other advanced features (which are awesome and definitely recommend giving a go)!
Based in Vancouver, Canada, since 2009, Wishpond prides itself on providing marketing-focused online business solutions in a wide array of industries. Its social media contests tool helps boost social media engagement and grow your mailing list easily and affordably.
Pros & features I love
Wishpond offers 11 incredible social media contests and competitions like video contests, sweepstakes, coupons, photo contests, and leaderboard contests to provide you with various options for social media growth.
You can publish sweepstakes anywhere with a few clicks, set entry options as you like, and choose from an extensive variety of optimised templates without the hassle of coding.
To leverage the leaderboard contest, its contest builder automatically creates contests that look amazing on every device and updates entrants with the highest points to encourage contest engagement.
Its reporting dashboard allows you to track the performance of your contests with the help of real-time data, so you can make smart marketing decisions.
Wishpond hasn’t openly disclosed its plans and pricing. In order to start a free trial account and purchase flexible pricing options, you will need to book a demo with one of its specialists.
To offer WordPress users with better giveaway plugin experience, RafflePress came into being. It boasts a beginner-friendly and powerful WordPress giveaway plugin to help marketers expand their business with viral giveaways and contests.
Pros & features I love
You don’t have to waste your time and effort creating the most beautiful templates since RafflePress has numerous viral giveaway templates to facilitate you in growing site traffic and improving engagement.
To keep your contest hassle-free and fair, the users can enter the giveaway with a simple click while ensuring that only verified users are allowed entry to the contest with the fraud protection feature.
You can grow your email list in a cinch with a plethora of marketing and CRM integrations such as ConvertKit, Zapier, Recaptcha, Drip, Active Campaign, and Mailchimp.
Its giveaway widgets are 100% responsive across all devices like desktops, mobile, and tablets to maximise the engagement rate and scale your business better.
RafflePress offers 4 paid ties - plus, pro, growth, and ultimate, which come with a price tag of $79/month, $199/month, $399/month, and $999 one-time, respectively. However, it currently is offering 50% discounts!
Furthermore, if you don’t like using any of the plans within the next 14 days, you can get a refund.
Founded in 2009 in the US, ShortStack offers an all-in-one contesting platform for the online marketing success of all kinds of businesses. You can create anything in a breeze, from customisable contests, quizzes, giveaways, and landing pages to sweepstakes.
Pros & features I love
To help you display your campaign at the time of your choice, ShortStack offers various publishing options like timed pop-ups, idle pop-ups, exit intent pop-ups, embedding, and custom domains.
Its prize manager automatically assigns unique codes to entries to save you the manual work. Moreover, you can limit the number of codes distributed and automatically close the form when the limit’s reached.
You can create contests that best suit your brand by using the style panel tool, which lets you customise numerous options to help you edit like a pro without any graphic design skills.
To make your marketing efforts worthwhile, the analytics dashboard displays helpful metrics in real-time, ranging from views, entries, traffic sources, and device type to clicks.
ShortStack comes with 4 paid plans – business at $99/month, agency at $249/month, brand at $499/month and enterprise has custom pricing. These plans also have a free trial.
Set up in 2010 with headquarters in Virginia, USA, Heyo prides itself on results-driven tools that allow you to create and run sweepstakes, campaigns, and contests anywhere across the website, mobile, and social media sites for profitable business growth.
Pros & features I love
Heyo offers a variety of campaign template themes to help you pick the right one for your business. Every element of the template can be easily edited, and you can preview it to see how it looks on different devices.
It provides full-service solutions to accommodate your online marketing needs with a variety of campaigns, ranging from photo contests, sweepstakes, quizzes and polls, and viral sweeps to coupons.
To convert leads into sales, you can take advantage of the 3rd party email marketing services integrations like Mailchimp, Mad Mimi, and Campaign Monitor.
You can check traffic sources, campaign engagement rates, and more through the analytics dashboard to download reports and monitor your marketing efforts.
Heyo offers basic, standard, and premium plans, which are priced at $25, $84, and $199 per month, respectively, and are billed annually. Of course, you can give Heyo a test run for 7 days before you decide to go all in. Furthermore, you can contact its team to build a custom plan from scratch.
⚡ Frequently Asked Questions ⚡
What are the best UGC social media contest tools across Instagram & Facebook?
Many of the viral tools I’ve detailed in this guide are pretty good for many viral type campaigns, whether it be for competitions on social, referral campaigns, waitlists, online contests (etc.), but like with any software you decide to choose, each of them has their strengths over other capabilities they may have. For me personally there are four standouts that I’ve personally used before for UGC social contests across IG/FB and have had awesome success plus experiences with, and they are Gleam, Vyper, ViralSweep and ShortStack.
Can any of these tools create complex giveaways, such as multi-tiered rewards based on certain social engagement criteria, referrals, and other behaviours?
The short answer is absolutely yes, that there are some tools that I’ve spoken about that have more advanced features when it comes to customisation and complex giveaways. Similar to the above question, many of them again have their particular strengths over other features they may have. From my experience having run a few more ‘complex’ campaigns for giveaways or viral competitions, the best software picks for you to explore further are UpViral, Heyo, Viral Loops, Gleam and ViralSweep.
Which software, in your opinion, is best for SaaS startups wanting to building a waiting list that can help users generate referrals (and also has good integrations available)?
There are three particular software platforms that are great for SaaS companies wanting to focus on referrals, which are Viral Loops, GrowSurf, and ReferralHero. Each of them have a good number of 3rd-party integrations available, in addition to other awesome features which all growth marketers and founders love, including analytics, design customisation options (widgets, emails, etc.), as well as other automation capabilities.
Do any of these software vendors for contests and competitions provide features around interactive content?
The three top software vendors that do a really good job with interactive content experiences are Wishpond, Woorise and ViralSweep. They both have the most features available and also make the creation process really easy for marketers and founders wanting to get on-brand campaigns up fast.
Do any of these tools have viral case studies to check out to see how other startups and eCommerce brands have performed, such as detailed results and examples?
The great news is that pretty much all of the above platforms I’ve talked about have really good case studies to check out. There are some really impressive case studies that have some insane numbers from successful campaigns across platforms Viral Loops, Vyper, Gleam, UpViral, and ViralSweep. Just head to the case studies section on their site to find them. Each of them have some pretty awesome eCommerce brands and startups that have used their software respectively and performed really well, whether it be pre-launch, referral, competitions, or all of them combined.
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