Amplify Social Referral Marketing Performance with Smart Surround Sound Tactics

Social referral marketing (SRM) is the practice of facilitating the natural inclination of people to recommend products and services to others in their social networks and preferred communication channels such as email, SMS, and chat (Download our white paper for more details). It is an even more effective way to grow the attendance at exhibitions and conferences than traditional marketing tactics. However, as with all event technologies, If you want to get more than baseline results, you have to apply a little elbow grease—something we at Gleanin refer to as smart, surround sound tactics.


All high-performing referral programs leverage incentives. Low performing ones don’t. Uber, InstaCart, GrubHub and plenty of other apps offer financial compensation to their customers for opening up their networks so that these businesses can grow faster, at less cost and attract customers with greater lifetime value. Financial incentives, especially in the world of events, are not always the primary motivational driver to inspire a registered attendee to invite a colleague. Instead, events have a unique opportunity to offer special access to VIP content and networking events, parties, book signings, special seating, and an overall “upgrade from economy to first-class” experience. 

Prime the pump

Most new technologies—even the most intuitive—can benefit from pre-event marketing. Whether marketers create a dedicated webpage describing the referral program and accompanying incentives, include mentions in the attendee newsletter or distribute a pre-registration email to alumni registrants about the referral opportunity, adoption increases if attendees know what to expect before they come across the SRM at registration. This kind of familiarity breeds advocacy, which increases referrals that result in net new registrations. 

Make a good first impression

The first opportunity your attendees have to recommend the event to a colleague using an SRM platform is during the registration process. Organizers that manage this workflow well—place the referral dashboard above the fold, make the instructions simple and clear, highlight the incentive program and provide visual guidance to users—will experience higher advocacy (more registrants making referrals). Higher advocacy is a strong predictor of an increase in net new registrations. Thoughtful workflow design is a critical smart, surround sound tactic.

Welcome attendees back

Every time an attendee comes back to the event website (to review the education program or schedule, for instance), the SRM should recognize him or her and provide another opportunity to make a referral. On average, about 16% of registrants will make a referral at some point leading up to the event. What about the other 84% of who saw the dashboard at registration, but didn’t do anything? Make sure a welcome back feature is available and activated. 

Embed referral links in post-registration emails

SRMs attribute registrations to specific advocates through a unique URL embedded in the referral invitation at registration. Organizers can also use those links outside the SRM. Some send out one to three post-registration emails to remind attendees to invite a colleague. Others include the unique referral links with show news: “We’ve just added a new keynote speaker. Maybe your colleague would like to hear her too.”

Give attendees the freedom to do their own thing

SRMs make it easy for attendees to make referrals. But highly motivated advocates—loyal attendees who actively engage in advocacy with or without an SRM—will use the referral links in all types of communication, including text messages, messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger or Slack. Let them know they can be creative and consider rewarding them for it.

Even though some SRMs serve up a referral opportunity to every attendee at registration, not every registrant chooses to make a referral at that time. To address that fact, organizers have to give attendees options for advocating when and how they want. And they need to be creative and persistent about asking for referrals at more than one touchpoint. Social referral marketing works. It works better with smart, surround sound tactics.

If you are interested in growing your event with high lifetime value new registrants, Contact Gleanin for a demo to learn more about social referral marketing for attendee acquisition beyond the baseline.

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