January 22, 2009
How To

6 Steps: Simple Referral Process Keeps Surge in Registrations Coming for UGC Site

SUMMARY: A website redesign can give you a surge of registrations. But how do you keep new registrants coming?

Listen to a marketer who simply asked for referrals during the registration process – and got a big boost in membership in a matter of weeks. Keeping the process simple avoided abandonments.
Mike Howard, Chief Operating Officer, Kiwibox, was in a great position late last summer. The online magazine and social network for teens launched a redesigned site in August and saw an immediate lift in registrations.

Howard and his team wanted to maintain that momentum while adhering to Kiwibox’s strategy of community-based promotion. Traditionally, Kiwibox had grown by word of mouth and other community-driven initiatives – not advertising.

Kiwibox’s content, in fact, is created by teens. And the social interaction is often driven by the user-generated content, Howard says.

“[Our users] have a strong desire for their friends, their family members and their classmates to come interact either around the content that they’ve produced or content they’re interested in.”

Howard and his team focused on the incoming members – those likely to be excited by the site’s games, journals, gossip and articles – to capture more registrations. They added a referral step to their registration process – a step made as simple as possible to avoid turning away registrants.

“The process took approximately two weeks of time to wire-frame and implement,” Howard says.

The six steps they took to push a surge in registrations even higher:
Step #1. Prepare email servers

Warn your email service providers and prepare your servers before going live. You may even want to have a new system for sending out your other emails -- newsletters and promotions -- to coordinate with these referral emails.

Howard says his team was shocked at the immediate volume of referrals being sent. They battled to get their servers to handle the load, he says.

“I guess it’s a good problem to have. Some of the emails get out more slowly than we like, but all of them do get out and delivered.”

Step 2: Build a referral page

Howard and his team built a one-page tool that automatically gathered email addresses from the registrants’ third-party email accounts. It is quick and simple to use, and invites people who were likely real-world friends of the registrants – a powerful way to build loyalty, he says.

“If you have an IT team that is knowledgeable with email system APIs and data integration, I think it will be a challenge but achievable,” he says.

The page has four steps:

#1: Select third-party email clients

The left side of the page lists the top four email clients used by Kiwibox’s audience: AOL, Gmail, MSN Hotmail and Yahoo! The clients’ icons are used instead of simple text to make them more recognizable.
In small text below these options is a “+ See More” link. When clicked on, it reveals the icons of seven other common clients that are less popular with Kiwibox’s audience: ICQ, Windows Live, Lycos, Mac Mail, MSN, Thunderbird and Microsoft Outlook.

After a client’s icon is clicked, registrants are prompted for their account name and password. If correct, every email address in that account’s address book will appear in a text box to the right.

#2: Manually enter email addresses

Registrants can type in the email addresses of people they’d like to invite to or find in Kiwibox.

#3: Write a personal message

Kiwibox allows a personal message to be added to the invitation email.

#4: Select which email addresses will receive the message

After the email addresses are imported, they’re listed in two boxes to the right. One box is for non-members; the other is for members. Non-members will receive an email invitation to join; members will receive an in-system notification that a friend has registered.

The addresses load with a checkbox that automatically indicates receipt of a message. Registrants have to scroll through the list and select out those addresses they do not want to send a message to.

Step #3: Build email and message

Invitation emails
These are sent only to non-members. The emails contain:
o Kiwibox logo
o Automated message
o Referral link in large text
o Personalized message
o Closing salutation

The personalized message makes the recipient feel important because they’ve been chosen to become part of a community with a friend, Howard says. It’s an authentic touch only the users can add.

Member messages
Although they are identified by their email addresses, those who are already Kiwibox members do not receive invitation emails. Instead, they receive Kiwinotes, internal messages letting them know that a friend had registered. If members have email alerts set up for those types of events, they will receive alert emails, Howard says.

Step #4: Protect information and ditch the data

Teens make up the large majority of Howard’s audience. Their information must be kept safe to make them, their parents and advertisers comfortable.

“We wanted to be 110% certain that every step of this process was safe and secure for our users, as they are trusting us with their most precious asset, their friends,” he says.

Some safeguards his team uses:

Never disclose last names
When invitation emails are sent out, only first names and email addresses are mentioned.

Identify the sender
The person sending the invitation is identified through an email address and first name. This lets the recipient know if they’re receiving the invite from a friend.

Use the passwords one time only
Users have to provide an email address and password for Kiwibox to access their email address books; this information is not stored.

Even if your audience is not teen-based, it’s a good idea to protect their information and identity.

Step #5: Give a reward

Registrants opening their address books to Kiwibox are rewarded. Every new member who registers in response to an invitation receives 200 KiwiPoints redeemable for everything from stickers to iPods.

KiwiPoints are not positioned as incentives in the registration process, however. They’re rewards for registering –not incentives to register. They’re not mentioned until after the registration.

“We’re always looking to add new tools to the site to allow users to refer their friends and receive value for bringing their friends to Kiwibox,” Howard says.

Step #6: Stop slowing them down

Keep the registration process simple and easy. Adding this additional step will lengthen the process to generate more members. But that’s why this additional step has to be as quick and simple as possible. Then get out of the users’ way and let them into the community.

Kiwibox’s registration process has three steps:
1. Choose a user name
2. Enter personal information
3. Refer friends

After selecting which of their friends will receive the invitation email and clicking the “Invite Your Friends” button, the registrants are dropped onto the welcome/profile page where they can begin interacting.

Some averages since the launch of the redesigned site:
o 12.54 invitation emails are sent per new registration
o 2.34% of invitation emails result in a new registration
o 29.34% more members have signed on

“We’ve seen a tremendous spike in users referring their friends,” Howard says. “It’s been incredibly viral. We just launched a few weeks ago, and we’re seeing tremendous traction in both, new members [who] are signing up, as well as current members [who] can now find all their friends on Kiwibox…It’s definitely taken off faster than we anticipated.”

This campaign fit right into Kiwibox’s previous strategies and user preferences. Aside from $1,000 spent on stickers a few years ago, “we’ve grown 100% virally with referrals and different ways to drive traffic to Kiwibox,” Howard says.

Useful links related to this article

Kiwibox Friend Finder Creative Samples

Focus on Referrals, Abandons Helps Eretailer Grow List, Bolster Sales:



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