Referring Friends Via SMS

One of the biggest (and most obvious) ways of creating word-of-mouth buzz for products or promotions is word of mouth. At one point or another, everyone has seen something along the lines of “refer a friend and get __ off your next purchase.” I love referring friends to places in general, but give me an added bonus and I’m definitely game. My co-worker was telling me earlier today about a new and interesting way to “refer a friend.” It was through SMS text messaging!

This business, let’s call them Restaurant X, is offering a free product to whomever signs up to their community (via SMS) if a certain situation happens in the Superbowl this coming weekend. So, the “refer a friend” part comes in after you sign up. You receive a text verifying you’ve signed up and then it suggests to “refer a friend” by texting back your friend’s phone number.

At first, I thought this was quite genius! This is a great way to build your mobile marketing list. Then I started thinking logistically about the ease of use for the program. Imagine holding your phone and thinking, “Oh! I bet my friend Jim would love to get this free product from Restaurant X! I want to refer him.” I then have to exit the message center, go find Jim’s phone number, write it down (where else will I store it?), then go back to the text message and type it in. Not so simple. And definitely not convenient.

The next issue I thought about was privacy. It’s 2021, and I don’t know about you, but I pretty much know 4 numbers – my sister, the office, 911, and my own. If I’m on the receiving end of the “refer a friend” text, how will I know who referred me? Physically go through numbers in my phone? That could definitely trigger getting upset not knowing who referred them to the program. Also, even though there is technically an option to opt-in, there is plenty of room for confusion receiving this “refer a friend.”

Overall, I think it’s a great concept but there are definitely some kinks that need to be worked out. What do you think of “refer a friend” programs that are done via SMS text messaging? How would you do things differently?

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