How can you get your users to refer your app?

Referrals are the holy grail for every marketer – what’s better than getting your users to tell others about your app or service? Your users know your app the best so they can act as ambassadors and get their friends started.


So how can you get your users to refer your app? 

Building a good referral program is important, but that’s only taking you half way. You also need to understand who the people are that are more likely to refer your app. Once you know who your top referrers are, you can nurture those types of users. After all, when it comes to referral potential, not all users are created equal.

1. Know who your influencers are – they might not be your best users.

Before Branch, our team built Kindred Prints, a photobook-building app for Android and iOS. Our most valuable users were moms with young children, often ordering multiple books at a time. About half our books were of babies of young children, and moms would often send multiple copies of these books to all their loved ones and extended family members. Moms were our bread and butter. But moms were too busy to use social media and share with others, so when we build a referral program we found that moms were not sharing much.

We needed to understand who were the users that were sharing, not just buying. It was incredibly difficult to track the shares outside of Facebook (which is why we built Branch Metrics), so we focused on Facebook shares alone using their app insights panel to figure out who those users were. We found that young women in couples were building fewer books – usually just one copy for their significant other – but they were a lot more likely to refer our app to friends. Those were the people who we needed to focus our referral program on.

2. Do your math: know how much your influencers are worth

The challenge with assigning a value to an influencer for mobile apps is tying back the attribution and understanding how many people actually install and convert from shared links. Once you have that data, you can use it to assign a monetary value to each influencer and use that value to guide marketing or referral spend on influencers.

The most critical piece of data in order to successfully calculate this metric, is to know where the installs originated from. The key numbers to collect for this comparison are

  1. Conversion % from install to purchase
  2. Referral factor per user
    • How many new users are created by a single user
  3. Life time value estimate
    • This is difficult number to estimate, so we might use first order total as a proxy
Let’s take an example based on our experience at Kindred:

So for example let’s say Moms (M) convert at a 7% rate from install to purchase, and they each bring 0.2 installs that convert at a 10%. These types of users, after purchase, will have an average lifetime value of $50.

In comparison, Young Women (Y) convert at 3% install-to-buy rate, but they each bring 3 installs that convert at 5%. These types of users, after purchase, will have an average lifetime value of $30.

Let’s take an example based on our experience at Kindred


So in the example above, although an influencer is buying a lot less and converts at a lower rate, since they share the app a lot more and they drive installs, they are ultimately be worth a more than your “regular” users.

The trouble right now with mobile apps is that attribution at the user-level is hard – Apple and Facebook don’t give it to you, and building it yourself would take months with an engineering team dedicated to it. That’s why built Branch. We tell you how many installs each user drives, where each user came from, and how much those users purchase so you can accurately value your influencers.

3. Know the effect of your top influencers – you might be surprised how many of your organic users come from just a few users.

At Kindred we were surprised to discover that one of our top users drove over 500 installs. Once we knew that, we reached out to her, sent her free books, and tried to understand why she loved us. That gave us insights into how to make others happy, and also made sure she stayed a happy customer of ours. At Branch we show you your top influencers and all the users they brought in to make it super easy for you to do the same thing.

Your influencers are the users that make your app amazing. They are your biggest fans and cheerleaders. Keeping them happy and understanding who they are should be just as high a priority as understanding who your top purchasers are. If you don’t know who they are, you can start by downloading Branch SDK to both build a referral and sharing platform as well as get amazing insights into who they are.

Mada is a co-founder of Branch Metrics , a full service, deeplinking solution for mobile apps. Branch links have the power to deeplink through app install and open, allowing the app developer to deliver a personalized post-install experience. Branch links can be used to build full user-to-user referral programs with automatic install attribution and rewarding, or to allow automatic deeplinking to content post-install. The Branch analytics dashboard gives insights into where organic installs are coming from, as well as interesting metrics like install conversion funnels and k-factors of growth features.