There have been a lot of questions about the current referral system at Memverse. We have been remiss in explaining both the motivation behind it and the recent changes we have made.
First, we'd like to explain the context. As many of you have no doubt experienced, memorizing the Bible is hard. It requires sustained discipline over a long period of time and the benefits tend to accrue slowly. Consequently, attrition is very high. Well over 90% of people who sign up are no longer active a few months later. We have spent a lot of time trying to make the site more intuitive and easier to use and we will continue to do so. The reality, though, is that "life's worries, riches and pleasures" frequently intrude and users disappear. The valleys in my own consistency chart could be annotated with life events like new babies, moving house, and sometimes just sheer laziness.
When we started Memverse we spent a lot of money advertising the site to attract new users. It cost roughly $10 for each new user. It soon became clear that it would be prohibitively expensive to continue advertising since we had committed to the site remaining both free to use and largely free of advertising (apart from a token ad slot on the blog). Part of the problem was that it was very difficult to target advertising to people who are likely to use Memverse over an extended period of time.
This was the genesis of the referral system: who better than our existing users would know whom to tell about Memverse. We coupled the referral system to the level progression since any such system requires some element of 'reward'. The usual method is to offer a subscription discount, but since we don't charge users, that wasn't possible.
Four months ago, in response to the dissatisfaction that many had expressed, we changed the way referrals are counted. Whereas before no credit was given for inactive referrals, we now give 50% credit. 25% credit was also given for 'referrals of referrals'. We never got round to announcing these changes which unfortunately perpetuated the perception that we were unresponsive on this issue. Sorry about that.
Second, we can assure you that the referral system is essential to Memverse's ongoing existence. Users referred by existing users are far more likely to persist in memorizing. Our hope was that people would be creative in finding ways to spread the word. That was indeed frequently the case and it has been great to see the influx of new users from mini campaigns on social websites and blogs. Advocate marketing can be powerful but we have learned that it is not for everyone.
So what is the path forward? Over time we will likely continue to make the referral system less of an obstacle to level progression as we observe the effects of the change earlier this year. We might also add a page which will allow users to make a financial donation and skip over the referral quests. To be honest, though, we would prefer to work on features that benefit all users.
Finally, growing the number of users is not merely for our own vanity. There are many features (live quizzes is one example) that are only possible at a certain scale. Thanks to all of you who have helped spread the word. Thanks also for all the praise and encouragement -- it more than cancels out the occasional disparaging comments. We have come a long way on a shoestring budget but we still have a lot to do.
Last night we went through every memory verse in the database to track down and correct the broken links between memory verses which have been causing issues for some users. While that was successful it had the unfortunate side-effect of converting the status of many inactive users to active. This will take a month to resolve itself automatically. In the meantime, this will be a great opportunity to earn some referral badges ;)
Update: the status of most users should be correct again.
The Memverse Referral Competition ends in about two weeks. Now is a great time to refer people because they're guaranteed to still be classified as "Active" in two weeks and they're still be able to refer new members themselves.
As we all know, the start of a new year is a great time for resolution making and it is a great time to refer people to Memverse. We are going to run a competition from now until Easter, April 24th 2011. The more people you refer to Memverse, the more chance you will have of winning one of the three prizes:
The winners will be chosen randomly from the Referral leaderboard but the higher your referral score, the more chance you will have of being chosen. If you have a score twice as high as someone else you will have twice as much chance of being chosen. Three people will win and the one with the highest score will get to pick their prize. The second highest score will pick next and the third highest will get the remaining prize.
I'm hoping that people will be creative in finding ways to refer people. Feel free to post links on your Facebook page, post a flyer in your church, email people you know, add a link from your blog, buy Google Adwords (there are lots of free coupons available on the web). Remember to use your referral link to make it easy to get credit. However, please do not spam people and give Memverse a bad reputation. Targeting a few influential people who have a passion for memorizing will be much more effective.
Remember that you will also benefit from the people they refer so the sooner you start the better.
It's just under a month until Christmas and then a week or so after that it will be 2011. Here are some recommendations from my 2009 experience:
Take this period to slow down on adding new verses. It will be busier than normal despite our best intentions, there'll be more on your mind, and it's better to go in to 2011 with a nice clean slate. (This is from someone who hasn't made it to the end of his verses for quite a few weeks now!)
Set a realistic goal for 2011. Take a look at what you've achieved the past few months and then set a goal that you think you can achieve with a bit of a stretch. Remember, the more verses you have in your head, the more time you'll need for review so if you added 100 this year, you might want to consider adding 80 next year. We are working on helping those of us who keep falling behind on their verses so don't throw in the towel just yet. :)
Finally, hope springs eternal in the New Year. January 2 is a great day to get someone to join you in memorizing the bible. So get a friend to join you. It's much easier together.