Looping Your Mobile App Into Viral Growth With Referrals

Team AppViralityApp Marketing, In-app Referrals, Referral Marketing5 Comments

Looping Your Mobile App Into Viral Growth With Referrals

Just three days ago, one of our team members came across a trio of three girls with their dance video on Facebook.  The next day, she saw the same video covered as an article by one of the Scoop magazine, she follows. As of today, the video has garnered the interest of almost everyone on the internet. Like many others in the league, the video is now VIRAL. Clearly, the video has attained its purpose of creating a buzz in the manner it was desired.

The mobile world has witnessed its own set of viral apps, be it in the form of a popular game, an entertainment app or others in the category. Unfortunately, it is often seen restricted to specific groups.

virality in mobile apps
With the inflation in the number of mobile apps and a competitive market, the hustle is to drive growth. Inducing virality can help apps to grow in a never before manner.

In this article, we will cover the various concepts of virality for a sustained growth and how app marketers can achieve it with in-app referral programs.

Let’s start from the simplest step of defining virality.

So, How Do We Define Virality?

Virality is explained in many forms by many professional critics in the market. We have picked the definitions that relate to different aspects of virality, yet make sense to app marketers. From a product’s perspective to psychological, virality is described in detail below.

Mobile Apps Need To Attract Attention To Be Viral

G.R Boynton- a professor at the University of Iowa, has an interesting viewpoint around the concept of ‘virality’. He states that ‘going viral is a story about the dynamics of attention’. 

    1. Boynton claims that virality is like an epidemic that infects people. Starting from few individual, it crosses countries and borders to a level of a pandemic.  Chewbacca woman is still a viral memory we are recovering!


  1. Boynton also discusses S-curve as a feature of virality. The curve is the number of people infected, starts from small and grows quickly at reaching threshold and slows down at saturation level. The virality depends on the curve running its course repeatedly.


Boynton's S Curve


For a mobile app marketer, Boynton’s studies are relevant.

 Mobile Apps Need To Focus On Building A Viral Loop

Where some answer it as word of mouth(WOM) marketing on steroids, in much practical manner, Andrew Chen– VP of Marketing at Uber, describes it as the steps a user goes through between entering the site to inviting the next set of new users.  It is as simple as Chinese whispers. Only, in this game you hear it correctly and you share it because you like what you heard!

Viral Loop

 Mobile Apps Can Engineer Virality

Talking about Virality, Ryan Holiday -a growth hacker and the author of the popular book Growth Hacker Marketing, provides an interesting perspective to hack Viral Growth. Ryan says:

By above sentence, Ryan Holiday stresses on the importance of growth hacking as opposed to traditional marketing. For a product/mobile app to go viral, one needs a growth hacking engine.  Ryan explains how Dropbox’s referral program filled that space.

Dropbox referral

Mobile Apps Need To Value User Psychology To Attain Virality

Now, from a psychological perspective, Jonah Berger, in his book ‘Contagious: Why things catch on’ explains 6 main psychological triggers behind virality. We’ve  also discussed the STEPPS theory by Jonah in detail here. None the less,  here some of the reasons, why we share what we share

  1. Collective Behaviour– We share an idea because ‘we like it’. Individuals can act on influences or without them.

  2. Share and Care– It stems from the human’s nature of being empathetic. A Pew research studies people who use social media are more trusting than those who don’t.

  3. Emotions– “Any emotion that fires us up–humor, awe and excitement, but also anger and anxiety–drives us to share.”, says Berger. Buffer in their blog post, put positive feelings, emotional complexities and element of surprise as the catalyst behind viral content. According to another research, joy travels faster than sadness or disgust, but not speedier than rage.

Having understood the concept of virality in the context of mobile apps, it is safe to say that referral marketing encompasses all the factors as mentioned above, and can work like a charm for your app’s growth. Let’s see how we can practically and uniquely apply In-app referrals or word-of-mouth to build virality.

 Referral Programs As Viral Growth Engine

The brilliance of referral programs resides in the fact they evoke ‘share and care’, element of surprise and collective behavior in users. Let’s take a look at the examples below and understand it better.

Virality of a mobile app


One of the apps that is close to many people’s heart is Citymapper. A simple A to B travelling app, Citymapper is often opted over Google Maps. It works on ‘solve a problem’ growth mechanic and stands on the psychological human empathetic tendencies. CityMapper’s virality is entirely based on Word of Mouth.

CityMapper App

Looking from a pragmatic point of view, not every mobile app has a great Word of Mouth marketing base. Sometimes, WOM viral loop works on its own; sometimes it has to be engineered by other growth tactics. The good news is that many mobile apps have created WOM loop by investing on their in-app referrals. Following examples will prove how-


A locator app, Tile has a ‘Refer a friend to Tile’ program. With their in-app referral program, they want you to track your friends, and it works in an interesting way. By referring Tile to your friend, i.e. a new user, Tile provides a referral link that takes you to another site. Tile rewards the referee with a new Tiles ( max 8 can be achieved).

 Key points of this referral-

  1. Strong deep linking that withholds the referral loop.

  2. Their reward is not money but a form that is another product item ( A Tile in the case)

  3. They have protected their referral loop against fraud by providing a reward limit.

According to their team – Every person who downloads our app or buys a Tile makes the network that much stronger.

Tile App's Referral Program


Sprig is a custom meal plan app that brings homemade organic food at your doorsteps in 20 minutes. Apart from it’s great UX, Sprig provides a referral program. A little simple in approach, they reward their user by providing $10 credit for each referral.


Key points of this referral :

  1. Sprig provides a  fixed monetary credit as a reward to attract users.

  2. It has an embedded download link  i.e., CTA in plain sight of the user that eliminates sign-in process.

  3. Sprig limits their referral program with a fixed date deadline.

 AppVirality To Engineer Viral Growth For Your Mobile App

For a mobile app, an important step is to discover whether your users are consciously sharing your product or services with their friends? This is where a mobile app business has to make a decision of investing on their users for the better results.

  1. A referral program will incentivize users to share and care, i.e. start the viral loop.

  2. An invitee/ referee gets converted into a user.

  3. The invitee becomes the referee, and thus more people discover your app.

With AppVirality building this referral loop will be easier and smooth. We help our users to personalize their own referrals with scientific supporting data and analytics. A referral program out AppVirality’s  tool kit is also engineered to prevent any fraud that a mobile app business can suffer.

AppVirality Analytics dashboard


To engineer, growth means to acquire the eye and ear of the user who hasn’t yet heard of your mobile app. Every day, mobile apps like Hailo, CityMapper, Sprig or Tile are creating multiple viral loops to increase their user base and audience.

A recent study shows that Mobile App market is on the brink of becoming saturated, where web market is still capable of absorbing websites. For a mobile business, the intrinsic hurdle is ‘discovery’ of the app. A referral viral loop is a prominent method to get your app discovered by new users. Don’t get stuck at the first step and grow your mobile app business by looping it with viral referrals.

Have you used referral marketing to grow your app? Do share your experience with us in the comments below!

Image Source: Tech.co| Inova Journey| Mobile Jazz |GrowthTower


About the Author

Team AppVirality


Sound growth hacks, tips and tricks from the team at AppVirality. AppVirality provides a drop-in SDK to implement Uber/Airbnb like in-app referrals, without having to code.Do drop us a line and we'll be glad to help you!

  • Pingback: How To Optimize Mobile Referrals - It’s More Than Adjusting Incentives! - App Virality()

  • Mobile Apps Likes Lyft Clone have a referral growth by the means of social media , Lyft is one of the top ride-hailing businesses in the transportation industry, that builds a good customer base in countries like the USA, San Francisco, and California. According to the market survey, Lyft shares 30% of the market share, and it is considered the second-largest ride-hailing company in the United States.

  • lewis877

    Hi there, Such a well written article. Nowadays it is easy to launch a mobile application but driving traffic into our app or getting more app installs is a huge task. App virality is such an innovative idea and interesting to read about. I would like to know about this referral traffic for my app development process. This is Lewis from Uplogic Technologies.

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