March 5 2018

Referral program examples are in great abundance these days when it comes to marketing mobile games. How many of these are truly valuable and do they serve their purpose?

Your starting point in any kind of marketing should always be about values. In a world that’s pretty noisy, you need to convey your product’s values to the end customer who can experience it. You need to do things a certain way, especially with referral programs in mobile games, so that people remember you and you stand out. And the way to achieve this is by projecting your product values in the referral program.

Why mobile games need referral campaigns?

Did you know that users are 4 times more likely to buy a product when referred to it by a friend? This is of huge importance because even if you have just 20 people on your app at a time, them sharing your app in their circles can give your user acquisition strategy a boost.

Some Significant Numbers Pointing to Referral Program Success

  • 28% of millennials will not use a product that someone among their friends hasn’t approved
  • Anywhere between 20- 50% of purchase decisions are driven by word of mouth promotion
  • Customers that come via a referral program, are 37% likelier to be retained
  • 81% of consumers are drawn towards brands that offer referral reward programs
  • Experts say that brands can expect a minimum of 16% higher profits through referred users

Brands Who Have Leveraged Referral Programs Effectively

Farmville by Zynga

farmville app referral marketing viral marketing
Everyone is familiar with Farmville. A highly popular game that exclusively functions based on the idea of referring the game to friends. The game is fairly simple but surprisingly addictive because, in the flurry of trying to expand their farm or plant more trees, users will turn to referrals to get the perks and benefits that come with it.

Behind the scenes, players aren’t the only ones benefiting from this and Zynga, the mastermind company behind Farmville, has a field day.

Although some players may find the thought of spamming their friends with requests to join Farmville a bit daunting, their only other option to advance in the addictive game is to pay out of their wallet to earn in-game currency which they can use to buy supplies etc. When the stakes are this high, most players would rather take a hit to their reputation than actually pay.

Angry Birds 2

angry birds 2 referral marketing
In the sequel, they implemented an indirect app referral program by making the addition of Facebook app invites that rewarded players with gems that they could also gift to friends.

Now Facebook is deprecating app invites. This has resulted in game developers seeking smarter solutions to fuel their referral marketing campaigns. For instance, Smart Invites.

Candy Crush Soda Saga

Candy Crush Soda Saga
The Candy Crush Saga is notorious for ruining friendships as a result of continuous spamming but it’s highly effective for the developer and the player. It tops many lists as one of the best referral program examples because of their sneaky strategy. The player receives special bonuses and is able to move on to the next level while their friends may or may not join them in the game.

The choices that are given to a player when they have no lives left are limited to two: either they ask their friends or pay for it out of pocket (this tactic is also actively used by Zynga).

In the spur of the moment, users may send a notification to everyone on their friend list because the thought of paying is much harder to digest.

You need to strike a balance with gripping the attention of those who are highly engaged, regular players with high scores as well as those who play twice a week but really aren’t that good.These users are instrumental in your in-app referral marketing process because they incorporate the valuable factor of genuine satisfaction that pulls in more users.

Referral Program Ideas for Mobile Games

Referral rewards program: A user reaches a certain target and then is allowed to give out coins to his/her invitees who want to play. The player can give out 100 coins to whoever joins first.

Social gifting: Players can be given access to certain gifts when he or she successfully invites a certain number of friends to the game. When these people join in, the original player gets access to a locked feature. The player can also use these to send to his invitees a ‘bribe’ for joining you in the game.

Referral contests: This is one the most effective ways of creating awareness for your game. Participants in the referral contest have the opportunity to win special prizes and perks by simply asking their friends and acquaintances to join the game. The winner will be based on the person who successfully generates a higher number of referrals.

Show referral in progress: Implementing this idea into your referral marketing scheme is a unique take on making the individual feel like he or she is part of the team. It naturally fits in the referral program in the user journey.

Dragon mania app referral marketing

Dragon Mania Legends referral code example

This can have a driving effect on a user and pushes them to take those numbers higher. Furthermore, it creates a pattern of them referring friends with a unique code and then coming back to check the meter to see where they stand.   

What factors influence referral behavior?


Rewards are certainly a pivotal factor when it comes to app referral program because it provides the individual with an incentive to refer in the first place. The fast-paced world has made it so no one really takes out time to do a certain task without getting anything in return.

An improved take on the app referral program would be to increase the value of rewards as a person generates a larger number of referrals. This will be effective since individuals will continue to actively seek out people to refer which helps you in getting more users.

Willingness to get even more rewards

It pays to have an overly-addicting mobile game because devoted players have a tendency to go out of their way to achieve and unlock new features. They prefer inviting their friends, instead of making any purchase.

Being low on in-game credits can be a pivotal factor in triggering their referral behavior and the news of an app referral program that provides them with credits means good news for them. They use the opportunity to gain more game money and as a result, actively seek out people that they can refer the mobile app too.

Location effect

You can gauge the activeness of users based on their location. For instance, urban area users are more digitally connected and this puts them in a favorable position to make more referrals.

Ask for referrals at the right time

The right timing plays a crucial role in triggering the referral behavior of players. The ground rule is to first let them interact with the game as they want and fit in the referral program as naturally as possible in the user journey. We wrote a post about the right timing, here.

Moreover, paying attention to the individual habits of your users helps in determining whether it would be fruitful to ask for referrals from them. Set up push notifications for when they’ve reached a higher level or unlocked a new feature in the app.

Simply put, the only way to ensure active participation in your game’s referral program, is to:

  • Make inviting friends a part of the user journey as naturally as possible
  • Make it easier for players to send invites on social media and popular chat apps
  • Reward your active referrers to keep them motivated
  • And of course, track the effectiveness of your referral program

getsocial smart invites cta