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How we got influencers to share our product without paying them

Updated: Nov 25, 2023


There are three reasons why people share


1. Financial: Robinhood, Paypal (give get $10)

2. Personal: Whatsapp, Slack, Linkedin

3. Social/Word of Mouth: Tesla, Tinder, Stripe



 


And, our new product wasn't relevant to our existing audience


We were launching a great product. It was free and open-source. However, the product itself wasn't something our existing audience could use. This means, I couldn't piggyback off of our existing audience to get that first spike.





 


Slapping money on the wall


Given the circumstances, it would be impossible to get people to share the product organically. They had no skin in the game to share.



So, the only option left to us was a financial incentive. Pay people to share.




I'd say it was a weak financial incentive.


A giveaway. Only 1 winner. So people know they might not win anything even after putting in the effort. A give and get program is much stronger in comparison because there's an assured return.


Ours was worth $300 which was what many people in our audience earned in an hour.


 


I was worried it'll fail


So a couple of hours before the launch, I pitched the team to pivot away from the financial incentive. 🥲



 


The solution?


The alternative I suggested looked something like this 👇


Instead of asking people to share with friends, I wanted to encourage people to share with influencers instead.





This was the exact email I drafted:



 


Without tracking referral links


If I were cooler, I'd say that attribution is a myth. That's why I did away with unique URLs allowing people to track their referrals.


But if I were honest, I just didn't have the time to set up something more polished.


Plus, the email tool we use doesn't integrate with Sparkloop which is what I would've wanted to use.



 


The campaign was a total success


To be honest, I was impressed how well it performed.


We've been featured in languages I don't speak. And the quality of posts are much better than had we paid for it. Here's why:

  • The influencer gets a warm intro from an existing fan.

  • The mention looks more authentic than a sponsored post.

  • And the user doesn't have to create content on their own to share. All they have to do is forward an email to one person.



Interestingly enough, we got featured by influencers that never do sponsorships. I know this because I did reach out to them right after they posted.


This was the exact moment when I realized the campaign was a success.


Influencers that took no sponsors promoted us for free.


And I didn't even have to reach out to them.


It worked at scale.


Across different languages.


Targeting both macro and micro influencers.



 


Did it convert?


It absolutely led to bottom line revenue. I have a form on the post-purchase flow sequence that asks people where they discovered us from. And a few people referenced these influencers.






 


How virality works?


I read an article on Substack that explained how ideas go viral. And you'd be surprised to learn that ideas don't go viral when one person shares with another. In fact, they go viral when someone shares with a lot of people and it explodes.


So, if a tweet goes viral, more often than not there's someone famous that retweeted it. I used that as an insight to convert a referral marketing campaign to an influencer marketing campaign. Because even if 10 people shared it with an influencer, we would've gone viral.



 


Final notes


I'd recommend you try this out! It was a bit creative and I haven't seen anyone else do it. So, it's not overly used yet.


Plus, I can't take full credit for this. I have a wonderful team. Supportive founder. Great product to market. Good luck and god's support.


So, thank you so much for reading this long letter.


Btw, I'm trying to better understand who my audience is. If you've got ten minutes, I would love to do a user research call: toption.org/10-minute



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