May 18 2017

In some of our previous posts, we have been discussing why referral marketing needs to be a part of your app’s growth strategy and when should you be asking your users for referrals. But this time round, we’re answering the one daunting question of all times – what do you do after acquiring a referred user?

Post referral strategies to hook your new users

1. Highly personalized user onboarding

When a user gets introduced to your app via a friend, he automatically has higher expectations from it. The very first experience with your app is what defines whether the user will see value in what you offer and engage him with it. This makes his onboarding important – introducing him to all the features of your app and how he can progress through different levels, makes sure he doesn’t miss out on anything important.

Apart from a quick introductory tutorial, using bubble messages through the different levels or an in-app chat to onboard the user personally have proven to be effective strategies.

For example, the moment you install Slack, it gives you a quick introduction of all its features and what they would look like to you once you log in to the team – making it easy for you to understand how to use it. 

slack onboarding

2. Leverage from user relationships on social

A user just invited his friend to your app. Now assuming that this friend accepts the invite and installs your app, what happens to the relationship between the two of them?

In a general scenario, a user would invite his friends to an app using social channels like Facebook, Twitter and other or messages using WhatsApp, Kik and other chat apps. But once this friend installs the app, they are treated as individual users. The relation that you acquired a user through gets lost almost immediately and that’s where you lose out on engaging them. 

dead target zombies - user relationships

The GetSocial Social Graph automatically generates a graph for all the referrals sent from your app. It connects your existing users with the friends they have invited, irrespective of the channel used. Knowing which user is related to the other, it enables app marketers to create gamification and boost group engagement to keep all the users active.

3. Let the competition start instantly

Instead of just passing on an invite, also pass on the existing user’s configurations. This enables the referred user to join your app from the point his friend is at, creating gamification from his very first time in your app.

While personalized onboarding will help him understand the features of the app and how to get his way around, instilling gamification will ensure that he gets hooked to your app. After all, it is all about becoming a part of your user’s break time to boost engagement rates.

For example, Swarm uses leaderboards to let a new user know where his friends are in the game – gamification, on point! 

swarm app leaderboards

4. Keep the momentum going amongst users

Don’t just let your referral campaign die out after acquiring a new user. To keep the momentum going, you need to promote your campaign to this new user as he explores your app. Encourage him to share your app or the levels he completes in it on social media, to let his circles know what he is trying.

The best way to do is to introduce your referral campaign during the onboarding, nudge them with in-app popups or incentivise an in-app purchase in lieu of invites. It is important to create a viral loop of referrals to keep your app sustainably growing.  


5. Don’t let them forget what you offer

Referrals happen only when a user is truly happy with his experience in your app and the only way to do so, is to keep adding value to his journey. The idea is to make him see value in every app session he has, so that it becomes a part of his everyday life. This includes reminding him of your features.

Contrary to popular belief that emails are not meant for apps, use the channel to send out weekly newsletters to your users. It is a good way to introduce them to your new features, any new updates, share tips and tricks of using your app better.

We personally love how Runtastic continues to motivate their users with quick newsletters. They also subtly promote the pro-version in the email. 

runtastic email

6. Don’t just look for invites, encourage reviews

If your referral program focuses on getting a user to invite his friends only, it is time to rethink – the number one way that mobile users discover apps are through search. That’s where reviews and ratings come handy.

Apps that are performing well on the app stores, automatically rank higher than the other – making your app the first choice in a specific category. So go ahead encourage or incentivise app reviews by reminding your users to drop them during an active app session. 

get app ratings

Also read: The Game Developer’s App Store Optimization Cheat Sheet


While referral marketing is one of the most effective ways for an app to grow, it is important to engage these users right from the beginning. The sooner and longer you’re able to maintain the WOW factor, the greater are your in-app conversions from referral campaigns.

So track your user’s in-app journey and offer a personalized experience to him from day one – from onboarding to making purchase recommendations, and nudging him to invite his friends as well!

What’s the one post referral strategy you absolutely swear by to keep your existing and new users engaged?

getsocial smart invites cta