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Social Referrals: The Value of Digital Friendship

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Last week here at GlobalEdgeMarkets, we discussed the functionality of social media marketing especially the idea of social referrals. We gave the example of a list of 10,000 consumers that could potentially be contacted through e-mail or social media with discounts to be offered. While direct e-mail was limited to the 10,000 consumers, and the potential for a few to forward the discount e-mail to their friends, the social media campaign was combined with a sharing element where if the consumer posted the product on their social media page or liked/followed the company’s social media presence, they would be rewarded with the discount.

Now, what we argued is that with the average user having 130 friends on Facebook the potential sharing element would multiply the total reach to 1.3 million (and that’s just for one platform)! And while actually converting all 1.3 million users may seem far fetch, it’s interesting to think that even if only 1% of the initial 10,000 shared the link for the business, the end result would be a Facebook reach of 13,000 users…still more than double the outreach of the e-mail campaign!

Social referrals

Even if you’re not a fan of math, playing around with these numbers just shows how appealing social referrals can be from a digital marketing standpoint. The appeal grows especially when considering that 92% of consumers trust earned media (word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family) above all other forms of advertising. The may mean that the campaigns of social referral might be one of the most effective forms of digital marketing out there!

But with all this excitement surrounding the analytic potential social referrals offers, businesses must be asking: how do we properly develop a successful social referral campaign? Do you just post a few statuses on Facebook? Do you integrate the whole process with e-mail marketing to direct your referrals at targeted consumers? Do you contact influencers to persuade them to share your brand? There are many ways to go about executing a winning social referral campaign and today we’ll delve deep into the various methods.

Back to Basics

As a quick definition for anyone who is not aware of what social referral programs are, they are end-to-end marketing programs that allow brands to reach out to company advocates and turn them into social advocates to their cause. Like the domino effect, the expected result is for each advocate to spread their message virally and convert fellow peers into sales through social media.

This sharing process would hopefully result in a large web of consumer-to-consumer marketing that would not only boost lead generation and sales conversion but also increase search engine ranking and consumer loyalty. Knowing this, it’s easy to see what so many brands would be interested in developing a marketing campaign that literally pays for itself in so many different facets of the digital world.

The Social Referral Play-by-Play

A huge part of what made the Dropbox viral campaign so successful is that they targeted customers they knew were satisfied with their brand and would be more than happy to share it with their friends in return for a free product. In a similar fashion businesses need to target clients or consumers they know are pleased with the company’s ability to produce. While in the retail world it may be difficult to get so specific with customers, with small-to-medium sized businesses the referral process should be relatively easy.

Target Valued Advocates

Most companies have a testimonial page where they list quotes from other clients solidifying their ability. If a client feels comfortable enough to be listed in the testimonial section, they should have no problem accepting free services for making that testimonial public on social media. Also, analyzing your past sales should allow your business to have some conception of who your top clients are. If those top clients keep coming back to your business, reward them with a discounted or free service in return for a shared social media post. This will thus get the ball rolling on your referral program and also build a better relationship with said clientele.

Craft an Appealing Deal that’s Cost Effective

As basic economics tells us, people make decisions based upon a sort of work vs. happiness scale. Naturally humans attempt to maximize pleasure through any work they do, and therefore you must make it so your potential social advocates see the benefit of spreading your brand from the get-go. While I’m not saying you should give away free products or offer over-the-top discounts, I am saying that unless you’re offering some worthwhile, this social advocacy could be a waste of time.

I would say a discount somewhere in the ballpark of 15-30% would suffice to get people interested. However when crafting your discount it should all be relative to what your products typically cost. At first Dropbox started out using Google Adwords as a way to reach customers but soon found it wasn’t cost-effective and so they dropped it. In a similar fashion, as a business you must make sure that your marketing campaign is overall profitable (I know, I know it’s business 101 but you never know with people today!)

Carefully Select your Social Media Platform of Choice

At the start of this blog, we used an example in which we showcased the potential outreach of Facebook with the average user having 130 friends. While the outreach might be impressive, you must look deeper into the analytic performance of each networking beast. As we’ve seen over and over again, the best social media marketing channel for GlobalEdgeMarkets marketing is LinkedIn, hands down. So a GlobalEdgeMarkets company offering consumers discounts for shares on Facebook may not have the best results.

Twitter looks to be the strongest channel for driving leads so your best bet of attracting upper management of businesses could be through a simply tweet. Overall, your choice of social media platform should depend on who your consumer is, what your product is, and the metrics behind each platform.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

While the execution of the former three steps is clearly a vital part of your social referral program, a good system doesn’t stop after the round. With so many users available through social media, it is unlikely you will hit 100% on your first referral round. New clients also bring new potential audiences so in reality you so should be doing multiple referral programs every so often.


Looking at social referral marketing campaigns as a whole, there really aren’t many drawbacks. If you’re successful, you’ve built a network of marketing connections where your consumers are literally doing your work for you. If you fail, you’ve still strengthened connections with top clientele that might end up increasing the loyalty to your brand. Through and through, social referrals hold the potential to help aid your company’s marketing efforts tenfold!

By Connor Lawrence

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