Supercharge User Acquisition with Incentivized Referrals – A Complete Walkthrough

If you’ve ever tried promoting an app through paid channels, you’re undoubtedly aware that is has long been prohibitively expensive, especially for indie developers and small startups. Unless you have large budgets, you’ve been forced to come up with more creative ways to find users for your app.

We’ve always said that the best source of new users is your existing users. If done right, social referrals can be an extremely powerful user acquisition tactic. One way to maximize the share-ability of your application is to reward or incentivize your existing users with something of value for successfully inviting their friends and family.

This is why we created our app invites product, aptly called ‘Word of Mouth’. It’s a turnkey referral system that makes it simple to reward your best users for each successful referral they generate (new install).

You can read more about our Word of Mouth product here. The system is made up of two critical components. First, we provide you with an in dashboard offer builder making it super easy to present offers to your users. Secondly, we’re then able to track each time a user has earned a reward, allowing you to process your own in-app reward fulfillment (e.g., free in app purchase, in game currency, premium app content, etc).

This article will provide an overview and walkthrough (including code samples) for how to implement Tapstream’s Word of Mouth product. We even created a silly game that’s live in the app store where you can test it out yourself.

Disclaimer: All code samples that follow were tested in XCode 7.1 and Swift 2.0.

To most effectively illustrate how Word of Mouth can help your app or game, we created a test app that you could try out yourself. Be warned, it’s a completely ridiculous game but it will demonstrate how Word of Mouth can work for you.

Like many ultra-casual games, Twig & Berries has a pretty familiar setup. The app launches and with one tap, you can start to play your first round. When the game is over, a summary screen will appear showing your score along with options to share the game, play another round, check the game center leaderboards, and remove ads (hey, we tried to keep this as realistic as possible).

Giving players the ability to share the game after they’ve completed a round seems like a good idea. When a user taps on the middle button on the “Game Over” screen above, they’ll be presented with a sharing interstitial that looks like:

*The sharing interstitial is built using Tapstream’s in dashboard offer builder. You can design and deploy new interstitials all from inside Tapstream.

From here, tapping on the “Get my free gift” button will present native sharing options for iOS:

Let’s say I send my friend an iMessage, they click the link sent along in the message, then install the app. The next time I play a few rounds of T&B, I’ll be alerted to the fact that my referral was a success (my friend installed T&B) and my free gift will be enabled:

Then as I continue to enjoy endless hours of T&B fun, I’ll have my cool new background enabled:

This sure-to-crack-top-10 game highlights the basic mechanics:

  1. Present a user with an offer to earn in-app rewards for successfully inviting their friends / family
  2. Deliver the in-app reward for each referral

This is all accomplished with minimal overhead and implementation time. Once you have WoM capabilities enabled in your app, you can design, deploy, and test new campaigns in minutes.

Word of Mouth opens up a whole world of new and interesting incentivized social referral possibilities:

  • Invite a friend and get free shipping on your next purchase (ecommerce apps)
  • Invite three friends and get 50,000 free gems (in app currency for games)
  • Love reading Newspaper Daily, invite a friend and get your first month free
  • Earn free premium in-app content
  • Invite a friend and be entered into a contest / draw to win even more prizes
  • Earn credits towards in-app purchases

The list could go on and on.

In the example app above, we made it so the user / player had to explicitly tap a share button before being shown the offer interstitial. This was for demo purposes only so that you could more easily test out the feature yourself. It’s worth noting that WoM can be setup so that the interstitial is shown to your users based on an explicit button tap or triggered by some kind of engagement event inside the app.

Now that we’ve shown you a real example, let’s start diving into how this was created. First have a look at our in-dashboard Word of Mouth campaign creator below. We’ve designed WoM to be as turn key as possible while still allowing for flexibility and customization.

For instructions and explanation of the various fields in the campaign builder, see below or see the documentation here.

Once you’ve setup your campaign inside the Tapstream dashboard, it’s time to dive into some code. It’s a fairly straightforward two step process:

  1. Place the code to show your campaign interstitial at your desired insertion point
  2. Periodically check with Tapstream to see if the current user has any unconsumed rewards available

Of course, before you can show WoM offers, you must have the Tapstream SDK installed and initialized as per our iOS documentation here: https://tapstream.com/developer/ios/integration/

Showing your offer:

Since the offer interstitial is a web view that loads remote content from Tapstream servers, it’s a good idea to cache it locally before you’ll need to display it to a user. First create two properties in your view controller:

Next, create a function called cacheWoMInterstitial  with the following code:

Call cacheWoMInterstitial  in your viewDidLoad

Note the “scorecardshare” string argument is the name of the insertion point you set when creating your WoM campaign in the Tapstream dashboard:

Next, setup a function that can display the WoM interstitial:

Simply call showWoMInterstitial  wherever you want to display the offer to your users. It can be the result of a button press, a time interval, or any in app event.

Checking for rewards:

When a user successfully invites a friend to your app, we store a record of the unconsumed reward on our servers. Your app will periodically want to poll Tapstream to check if the current user has any unconsumed rewards available. Depending on your needs and the specifics of your active campaigns, it might be sufficient to check for a reward each time the app is launched or made active. If you need to check more frequently, you can setup your own routine to periodically poll Tapstream for available rewards.

The implementation in T&B is as follows. We created a checkForAvailableRewards  function that gets called after each round is played if no advertisement is shown to the user. For other apps it might be more appropriate to put check for rewards in applicationDidFinishLaunchingWithOptions  or applicationDidBecomeActive

In the snippet above we grab hold of the TSWordOfMouthController  instance, call availableRewards , which should return an array of TSReward  objects. In this example, all we’ve done is loop over the available TSReward  objects then post a notification to alert the user of their reward and enable the premium background. Finally, we consume the reward so it can’t be awarded twice.

A TSReward  object has sku (String) and quantity  (UInt) properties that you may want to look at before delivering a reward. If you have an offer where a user can earn the same reward multiple times, you’ll want to check the quantity property. If you have multiple WoM campaigns running with different types of rewards, check the sku property against the value you set in the dashboard for the given campaign:

That’s pretty much all there is to it. If you’d like to try out T&B yourself, you can download it here.

Like any Tapstream campaign, we provide full performance reporting (clicks, installs, retention, and revenue) along with cohort analysis and funnels.

Total Customizability 

One of the questions often asked about WoM is, “Can I completely customize the offer interstitial?”

Yes, we recognize that our templated offer builder may not be the best solution for all apps and if you’d like to write directly against our API’s you can easily serve your own completely custom offer interstitial. Below is an example from a customer app called Zombify where they’ve made the offer interstitial more interactive with swipe-able properties:

As marketers and user acquisition specialists we often get caught up worrying about our next paid campaign, email campaign, etc but we often lose sight of the fact that referrals from friends and family remains one of the most significant ways that consumers find new apps.

Yes, this is from 2012 but we doubt the numbers have changed all that much

Yes, this is from 2012 but we doubt the numbers have changed all that much

If you’re not trying to tap into social referrals to drive app downloads, you’re likely missing a huge source of potential new users and revenue. Tapstream’s WoM can be a cost effective way to supercharge your viral user acquisition.

If you want to learn more about Tapstream’s Word of Mouth product, please email support@tapstream.com and an account rep will get back to you to schedule a demo or call.