Refer a Friend Promotions

Happy Thanksgiving to our North American Readers!   Over the past several weeks, I’ve spent more time playing a variety of online games. One thing I was looking for specifically is how they encourage their users to get their friends to get their app – and I’d have to say, most developers fall far short of their potential. But not all. Some are very, very good at getting their users to refer lots of their friends – via Facebook and email. Some of the best still fall short of what they could do.

The first point for developers is to always build in a convenient way where people who like your app – game or utility, can introduce it to their friends. You might do it through Facebook, but not believe it or not, not everyone uses Facebook.   Thus, it is also good to support an email option with a unique referral code for each user.

It is good to go one step further, and provide some additional support for bloggers and others with their own web sites. A unique referral ID can be used just as easily on a web site as it can through an email. However, this is where you can provide your “super users” (those who talk about your app the most) some nice graphics to showcase details of your app on their sites.

The email program makes it easy for your users to refer a few of their friends. Adding the extra graphical “bells and whistles” helps bloggers reach all of their readers which can number into the hundreds, even thousands. In short, you are looking to provide your super users a fan kit which can include some of the following:

  • Wallpapers
  • Screenshots
  • Icons as they can be seen in your app/game
  • Graphical components similar to your site’s look ‘n feel
  • A user FAQ
  • Cool content of your own design that bloggers and webmasters can post freely
  • Let your imagination run wild and crazy!

Each and every one of your users can be a sales agent on your behalf. Make it easy for them.

Refer a Friend Rewards

There are some people who will like your game so much that they will refer it to anyone just because they think their friends will enjoy it. That’s not something you can count on. Incentivizing, rewarding your “sales people” – can inspire otherwise “casual users” to become “super users.”


  • In app currency,
  • Feature unlocks and upgrades
  • Virtual vanity products
  • Free copies of your new app/s
  • Free trial keys to your apps to share with their friends
  • Physical prizes
  • Insider access – interviews, behind the scenes looks, first access

Use your imagination and consider what those who use your app would most appreciate, even ask them directly.

This then, leaves three questions –

What should the reward be for each referral? This is hard to answer, as depends upon your pricing (someone selling a Toyota probably won’t get the same commission as someone selling a Mazaratti) and perhaps more importantly – where you are at in your app’s lifecycle. During the first stages of your release, you might aim to provide greater rewards to encourage a quick ramp up of referrals, and let it taper off after 1-2 weeks, then run special incentives periodically. A decent rule of thumb is to provide rewards equal to 10-20% of the value of what an average new player would bring you.

Should there be “qualifications” or criteria for referrals?   This may add more code to your apps, but simply rewarding installations or one-time players doesn’t really help you if you are on a free to play or freemium model. That may work for premium, though. You need to set the criteria relative to the dynamics of your app – perhaps new users need to reach a minimum level, play for a certain amount of time, or make an in app purchase.

Should there be a limit to the number of referrals that are rewarded? My inclination is to think that you should not set a limit on referrals. Once someone “caps” the number of referrals in their limit, they aren’t likely to be as proactive. Plus, it’s kind of like telling a salesperson, “I only want you to sell ten apps.” – “But, I can sell 20!” – “No, I only want you to sell 10!”

Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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