A lot of marketers mistakenly think that “tell a friend” campaigns are dead. They’re not dead; they’ve just evolved to take different forms. The old form of “tell a friend” campaigns most certainly is dead. However, the newer forms can go viral very quickly.
In the old days, a “tell a friend” campaign consisted of a website that asked people to type in a friend’s email address to “tell a friend.” People would do it, because back in the day receiving an email invitation was a great thing.
Today, people’s mailboxes are full to the brim. Nobody wants unsolicited invitations anymore. Because friends know their friends don’t want those “tell a friend” emails, they simply don’t type in their friends’ emails anymore.
So the old way of doing “tell a friend” is dead. But what are the new ways? There are two main ones.
==> The “You Both Win” Method
This method adds a bonus, often a bonus with monetary value, to telling a friend. However, instead of paying just your visitor or just your visitor’s friend, you pay both.
Take Dropbox for instance. For every friend you refer, both you and your friend get a bonus of storage space.
That means that your friend is better off signing up through you than if they just went to the site on their own. You’re better off as well.
Because it’s a win/win scenario, people are much more willing to pass the offer along. This is one of the main ways Dropbox grew so quickly.
Try to think of a high perceived value prize you could give both to the person referring and the person being referred. Make sure it’s something that won’t cost you anything, but is perceived as valuable by the recipient.
==> The “Invite Only” Approach
If you want to really generate some buzz about your site and get people to tell their friends about it, one great way to do it is to make your site invite only.
This is how Gmail launched. They had a great product, then only released it to the public one invitation at a time.
When someone had Gmail invites, they let their friends know. This was perceived as doing a favor for friends, rather than sending unsolicited mail.
In order for this tactic to work, you have to actually have a site or product that people want to access. Then you make it invite only. This exclusivity will help make people who have the invites feel special and tell their friends about it.
This is also how a lot of Hollywood parties are run. People who’re invited tell all their friends about it, because they’re part of a special club.
These are the two adaptations of the “tell a friend” program that still work today. Consider this a “slow viral” technique. You won’t get millions of views overnight, but it’ll spread and spread and spread throughout your target market.