Reward Program Strategy

The 4 Best Channels for Online Customer Referrals


The difference between a good referral program and a great referral program is a thorough understanding of how your customers will interact with it. How they interact with it is equal parts your audience demographics and the products you sell.

Let’s go over what I believe to be the best channels to encourage referral sharing.

Don’t settle for a good referral program - build a great one.
Understanding the strategy behind the best referral programs will allow you to build an effective one.


1. Facebook is a Must!

If there is one channel that every business should be encouraging referrals with it is Facebook. With 2 billion monthly users, the platform is popular across almost every demographic and is the most used social and communication platform in the world!

Besides just a large user base, referrals shared to Facebook have the benefit of being public and extremely visual. The average Facebook user has a social network of 338 people, which means a referral shared to Facebook is a large and lasting public endorsement of your brand.  That is a lot of potential brand impressions from one share!

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A referral shared to Facebook has the potential to reach an average of 338 people in a highly visual way.

Facebook also has the benefit of being a very visual platform. If you craft a referral message that includes an image, it can go a long way in making sure the referral is seen and understood. This makes Facebook an amazing referral channel for any visual industry, including fashion, food, and lifestyle.

facebook messaging referral smile

Be sure to create a referral message for Facebook that uses an image that immediately shows potential customers what you sell and includes your logo. You can do this by changing your site’s metadata, or in the customize section of a referral program.

Tips for Facebook as a Referral Channel:

  • Has the most amount of monthly users in the world
  • Can reach an average of 338 people per share
  • Is great for visual industries such as fashion
  • Gets customers to make a lasting public commitment


2. Mobile Messengers Create Frictionless Sharing

Shopify has reported that almost 60% of checkouts on the platform are now happening on a mobile device. Clearly, mcommerce is growing and here to stay!  

Shoppers are browsing and buying on mobile more than ever, that also means they are interacting with your referral program there as well. When you enable your customers to share referral links on mobile messengers, you are allowing them to easily share in a way that is natural for the device they are browsing on.

mobile messaging referral smile

A program allows you to easily enable mobile sharing when a customer is browsing your site on their phone. Whether they’re using WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, the appropriate app can be opened and sharing becomes as simple as selecting a contact to send to.

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Mobile commerce is growing every year, which means your referral program should encourage customers to share referrals via mobile channels.

Mobile text based communication is the preferred communication method of those under the age of 40. If you are targeting that demographic, mobile sharing channels are a must. Even if you are not targeting that demographic, mcommerce is on the rise and gaining momentum.

Tips for Mobile Messengers as a Referral Channel:

  • Capitalize on the growing mobile commerce trend
  • Are the easiest and most natural way to share on your phone
  • Allow customers to share with friends in a one to one setting
  • Are great if you have a 40 and under audience


3. Twitter is Another Great Public Channel

While Twitter is not Facebook in terms of size (330,000 monthly Twitter users), it is still an amazing opportunity for creating engaging customer referrals.

Since Twitter is the original creator of the hashtag, that tool can be used to your referral program’s advantage. Simply add a branded hashtag to your default share message and every time a referral is shared, you are generating a buzz around your tag.

Hashtags are also helpful because they allow you and potential customers to see how many times your referral links are being shared. People like what others like - it’s called social proof!

Like Facebook, Twitter is a very visual channel. Be sure to customize a visual to accompany your link when it is tweeted out. Again, this can be done by changing the page metadata, or in the sharing options section of your program.

Tips for Twitter as a Referral Channel:

  • Has the ability to trend on a hashtag
  • Is great for visual industries like cosmetics
  • Can include a preset message to be shared
  • Is public to the entire Twitter platform


4. Email is Powerful for Some Retailers

Email may not be as sexy as some of the other channels on this list, but it can still be super effective for the correct audience. Younger customers like Millennials and Generation Z do not like to use email as a way of sharing and connecting with friends, but Baby Boomers love it.

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92% of Baby Boomers click through to sites advertised to them through email.

In fact, 92% of Baby Boomers click through to sites advertised to them through email. That is much higher than any of the younger generations! If you have an older audience, enabling referral sharing through email is an easy decision.

Even if you are not targeting boomers, email can be an effective referral channel for you. If you sell goods that are best not shared in a public setting, email referrals are a great marketing avenue because they allow your store to be shared in a more private and intimate matter. This is great for stores that sell things that are not dinner time topics like underwear, smoking accessories, or sex toys.

email messaging referral smile

Regardless of whether you decide to enable email as a referral channel, it is always important to include an email marketing component in your referral program. With this type of marketing in place, you’ll easily be able to keep your members engaged and encourage additional referrals.

Tips for Email as a Referral Channel:

  • Is amazing if targeting baby boomers
  • Is private and intimate
  • Is great for industries that are more private such as underwear
Are you tailoring your strategy to your target audience?
Gen X, Millennials, and Baby Boomers are all looking for something different from your program - make sure you give it to them!


The Right Referral Channels For You

The channels listed above are the referral channels we have seen be most popular and effective for more than 15,000 programs. Yes, there are other channels out there, but the reality is that they’re much more niche in their reach and effectiveness.

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Enable at least one private and one public referral sharing channel. We recommend Facebook and a mobile messenger!

For the best referral results, give your customers both a public and private sharing option to best encourage them to take action. We strongly recommend Facebook and a mobile messenger as the two must have referral channels.  

Start generating new customers with a referral program.
Find out what other elements make up a great referral program and how you can easily build your own.

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