From photos to videos to posts and shares, people are sharing more online every day than ever before. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicts that every year, consumers will share twice as much online as the year before. This shift in user behavior has fundamentally changed the way people search for, consume, and share information online. People turn to their peers, and even strangers, for recommendations and information on brands and the products or services they sell.
That's why this shift in consumer behavior has resulted in changes to how referral programs are shared. Often times once brands come up with a referral program idea, they throw themselves into the promotion of it. They're the ones driving the program forward without much input from the customers they want to share this program.
Here's the thing though. If you want your customers to talk about you, give them the ability to do so in a way that works for them, is easy for them and motivates them. This approach feels more organic and gets advocates excited to talk about your program on their terms.
We've put together three tips that will help you make sure advocates are excited to share your referral program.
1. Engage your customers where they spend time online.
We live in a digital age where almost everything we do takes place online. From buying food to meeting people, you can find a space for just about anything online. The way people connect and interact with brands is no different. These days customers engage with brands across a number of platforms. This includes, for example:
- Company websites
- Social media networks
- Email marketing and more
When it comes to getting more people to engage with your referral program, the most effective way is to understand where customers spend time online and then ask them to promote the program across all of their social channels.
For example, if you cater to millennials and your research shows that they spend a lot of time on social sites like Facebook and Twitter, then use these platforms to remind customers about the program and ask them to share it. This approach drives awareness of your referral program, improves customer participation in the program and increases the program's reach.
Another option is to give advocates the option to choose where they share your referral program. Let's say customers spend time on your website, but people in their network spend time on Facebook; give advocates the option to share the referral directly on Facebook. This ensures that their network sees your program and has a chance to take part in it.
Notice how this particular referral allows users to share across three platforms: email, Facebook and Messenger. By giving consumers the option to decide where they want to engage and share the referral program, you encourage them to participate more and share their experience with the people in their network.
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2. Make sharing easy.
Another perk to living in the digital age is the conveniences we enjoy. Almost everything we need is within our grasp. And the easier it is to get what we need, the better. Keep this in mind when you create or adjust your referral program.
It's important that you make it easy for customers to share stories about your brand, products and services with their friends. The easier it is for them to share, the more likely they are to do it. For example, wherever details of your referral program appear — like on your website or in an email — include relevant sharing options.
If customers spend a lot of time on your website, make sure the referral page includes options to share the referral via email, social network or something else.
In this example, advocates have the option to copy a personal referral link and share it on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If advocates need help adding people to their list of referrals, they also have the option to sync their Google contacts within the referral offer. This way, with only a few clicks, advocates can upload their list of contacts and then share across any of the channels that are easiest for them.
Remember, the quicker and easier it is for advocates to share your program, the better.
3. Increase participation through incentives.
If you've ever been on a website dedicated to a cause, you've probably read the summary behind why the cause is so important and how helping can change lives. People participate in giving online because the story behind the cause made them stop and think and really resonated with them.
The same can be said about referral programs. The clearer you make the value of your referral program and the benefits of sharing it, the better the chance of advocates talking about it and sharing it. Give customer advocates a compelling reason to share with their friends — like sharing the program gives them more chances to get their hands on products they enjoy.
Keep in mind that even though percentage discounts are a popular referral program option, there are many other successful types. You can offer something for free, a credit or even loyalty points. Get to know what's most important to your audience — advocates and referred customers — so that what you offer resonates with them and encourages them to share with other people.
With relevant and appropriate incentives, you'll see increased sharing and customer acquisition. Also, remember that it's OK to adjust your referral program over time so that it continues to resonate with customers. As their needs shift, adjust the program to accommodate this and to maintain the rate at which your program is shared.
Regular encouragement to get advocates to share is a must
Consumers have increasingly more say in the marketplace and among their network. Let customers use their influence to create stories about your brand, products and services. This is openness is a critical part of your referral marketing strategy. Support this by engaging them where they spend time online, by making sharing easy for them and choosing the right set of incentives to motivate them. When done right, customers will be bragging about your products and services for a long time to their network.
To learn more about cultivating consumer-generated content, check out our 2018 Referral Best Practices Guide today.