My Referral Key Experiment

It’s been a few months since I first wrote about Referral Key, and the comments don’t stop coming to that now-popular post. The Referral Key main guy (founder or ceo or something that escaped me) also weighed in with his highly unbiased opinion. Given the hubbub around this post, and the number of emails I receive from people asking me bizarre questions about Referral Key I am beyond unqualified to answer, I’m going to up my Referral Key knowledge.

I’ve decided to try a Referral Key experiment. We will call this the “what the heck is referral key anyway and does it do anything (?) experiment.” I have my hypotheses, as I’m sure you know. But I’m willing to be open-minded for this one.

The Referral Key Experiment

Here’s how it works:

Today, September 10, 2011 is Day 1.

We will now count how many days it takes for someone halfway normal and not offering aromatherapy dental support for my chinchilla enters my Referral Key network and provides something of valuable use that would actually help my life. When that person does arrive, and the magically useful thing happens, I will send them a copy of my new book, Twitter for Good.

Now, let’s be clear, I still don’t believe in the power of steak to garner qualified leads.


As such, I’m making this challenge easy for Referral Key and making it clear that my definition of “someone on Referral Key offering me something useful” is quite broad. There are many ways to actually provide value to me (and all humans) in this world, and we will now see if Referral Key is actually aimed to do that, or it’s true purpose is to drive us all (and our email inboxes) crazy.

My Action Steps:

  1. First things first, I got me a snazzy URL for my Referral Key Profile. The fact that I was able to score the shockingly incredible name of is, of course, just a tiny bit concerning as I ponder the number of users on this service.

2.   Then, I set up my profile. I included my photo and the typical bio that I pretty much always copy onto the web pages of speaking events with the caveat that I explained the “clients” I was seeking were actually not clients at all, but rather useful human connections as per this experiment. Under “Clients I’m Seeking”, I wrote: This is an experiment with Referral Key to see if it is possible to actually meet useful homo sapiens on this service. Read more about it here:

3.  Finally, I set up my new Referral Key automatic email. I have eschewed the horrid “If you’re taking on      new clients, I’d like to include you in my private referral network to send you business leads through Referral Key” in favor of the following:


Howdy —

Have you been getting spammy Referral Key messages in your inbox? Me too.

So now I’m trying to figure out the wild world of Referral Key.

See more about the dubious experiment here:



It’s still unclear to me what I do with this automatic email, besides spam people, so for now I’ll just let it sit there.

Your Action Steps:

If you’re on Referral Key, offer me something useful. Or, preferably, don’t. Let’s just all sit back and see if magic unfolds.

And now, let the Referral Key games begin!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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23 thoughts on “My Referral Key Experiment

  1. I am curious too how your experiment is going. Just received an invite today – it was in my spam folder but rescued it because I recognized the senders name. Soon as I clicked and went to such a bare page I did some research and found your two posts. My thoughts about Referral Key is they can’t be all that good in Social Marketing since their site sucks so bad. Its like going to a website that boasts to be fab at SEO but you can’t find them anyplace on the web and they are trying to sell their service from a really bad website.

    Looking forward to your followup 🙂

  2. Claire,
    Is the experiment totally over? You are approaching the 1 year anniversary of this post.

    Today I got an email from R.Key and they talk about over 10 million connections. That is A HUGE number that sparked my interest. I did a little google search and found your post. Yours, sounds like both a cleaver trick to test R.Key as well as drive traffic to your blog. Rating R.Key from 1-10, 10 being best, how would you rate it. Rating the buzz you received on your blog as a result, how would you rate that?

  3. Hello Claire:
    Like many who posted on this thread, I must express my gratitude to you for saving me from the energy drain that must be Referral Key. I knew something was rotten in Denmark when this fellow connected with me on LinkedIn and soon began direct-messaging me about silly, kinda personal business questions. I had to figure he was either trolling for dates (I’m not even gay) or working some scam. Behold, the much-coveted invitation to Referral Key. Can’t wait to ignore in perpetuity.

  4. Got the invite to join this morning. But as it was very limited in providing any info about the company (none), did not include my specific category, I declined. It made no sense, other than offerring a “pie in the sky” kind of promise. I chose not to make “desperate” decisions to obtain business. Do you think by offerring a too big reward for leads that it would turn off viable lead supplier. I know I would think, “too good to be true” and turn away. I am saying hooray to the success that DUTTON seems to report. It did come thru Linedin as he mentioned. I would love to know if he did give $500 to that provider? Thanks for sharing. It is always good to share intelligent thoughts with others!

  5. Thank you for the “Experiment”. It undoubtedly saved me from many useless spams. I received one this morning and investigated, finding your post. Now I will read your book, for as of this moment I have had absolutely 0 use for Twitter, other than receiving messages that people I’ve never heard of are following me, (kind of creepy).

  6. I haven’t been getting any emails at all from RK in almost a year on there. No spam, no nothing, even though my email settings are actually set so that “tips, guides and updates” are supposedly coming to me. There is a link for turning off all emails, though, so presumably anyone who is getting too many emails could click that.

    I can see how their might be value in the system, in that people wanting to make referrals to you may be more encouraged to do so with the promise of a reward (which I set as a $500 cash reward from my business, so not quite as limited an appeal as steak). It makes them act now instead of just thinking about it and never actually making that call or sending that email of introduction. That said, the one referral I got “from” the system was when I sent the initial invites to my LI network and someone replied to me by email with a couple leads, both of which became new business. She didn’t sign up with RK or submit the lead through there, so I officially have never received a referral from the network, though really over $50k in new business came in and it may be she wouldn’t have made the referral to us if I hadn’t just sent her the RK invite.

    Not sure I will keep using it, since nothing seems to be happening with it. But since I’m not getting spammed I don’t see any reason to rush to delete my account just because it is inactive.

    • Got the invite to join this morning. But as it was very limited in providing any info about the company (none), did not include my specific category, I declined. It made no sense, other than offerring a “pie in the sky” kind of promise. I chose not to make “desperate” decisions to obtain business. Do you think by offerring a too big reward for leads that it would turn off viable lead supplier. I know I would think, “too good to be true” and turn away. I am saying hooray to the success that DUTTON seems to report. It did come thru Linedin as he mentioned. I would love to know if he did give $500 to that provider? Thanks for sharing. It is always good to share intelligent thoughts with others!

  7. Thanks Claire! I guess I am a pessimist, so I googled before accepting an invitation. Good thing I did… hate, hate, hate, deleting junk mail!

  8. You are fantastic. Not only do you have a great writing style- you have class. I just watched the site video after reading all the posts and your comments about Referral key. I found you because I am starting a new venture in the referral arena and have been searching the web for information- I found you- Yea! The fact that you and Twitter are making such a great impact on non-profits impresses me and I am going to get your book and use it as part of my ongoing research. I look forward to future posts

  9. I made a massive mistake with referral key. I downloaded my LinkedIn contact list (circa 900 at the time) to send a email to a small selected few, or even a large selected many if the thing did anything (at the time I had but a vague idea of what it is supposed to do). In a split second I spammed everybody I know on the planet. My personal email filled up instantly with hundreds of responses and out of office replies, I mean hundreds!! The tone of the first page of responses let me know the impact of my folly. I lost about 20 LinkedIn connections. I looked at the size of my rescue job (basically emailing all my contacts and apologizing) and gave up after 15-20. I then sent several emails to referral key (including Mr. Big) asking for assistance. I have had no reply. I even tweeted Mr. Big asking for a contact point. Nothing. I still have to delete hundreds of emails from my account. Mr. Big is on my hit-list and orange is now my most hated colour.

  10. I had never heard of Referral Key before about ten minutes ago, when I received the (standard) invitation via someone I respect. having looked at this site, I’m glad that I Googled before I leaped. I get abundant Spam already and am not keen on aroma therapy.

    The “hook” that nearly snagged me is the invitation’s use of the word “client” rather than “customer.” Since my business is service-based via the Web rather than product-based in a retail store, “client” is a good descriptive fit. So I mistakenly thought that the fellow inviting me had actually put some thought into his note. Nope.

    Maybe later for Referral Key. I’ll sit out this particular dance.

  11. Excellent! I have spent about an hour trying to work out what (if any) use can come from my Referral Key profile that has been active for months without delivering anything of use – not even spam! I don’t think I am an idiot, but for the life of me I couldn’t make head or tail of how it is supposed to work.

    So I Googled “Doe anyone ever get any leads from Referral Key” and found your blog pretty much at the top of the list.

    Apart from making me laugh, thanks are also due for saving me several more hours of wasted time flogging that particular dead horse!

    Keep up the good work!


  12. Yikes, I think I’ve goofed. I”ve been trying to figure out if referral key is good for anything beyond personal services (otherwise known as dentist, florist, plumber), and found your post here. So I thought, okay, I’ll go find Claire on Referral Key and invite to her to… link, i guess.
    So I clicked “become colleagues”, and oopsie — it sent out an e-mail. I can’t figure out how to modify the e-mail format, and now I’ve sent out a load of spam. SO GLAD I did not do this with my whole contact list.
    I think this service, like GigPark, might be useful for the personal services category mentioned. But are people likely to hire me as an innovation consultant or for a keynote based on what is there? Seems unlikely to me. Nevertheless, these services have to start somewhere. IN combination with something like LinkedIn (like an add-on), it might be useful to professionals. Or not. The offer seems to lack something, as evidence all the confusion in the comments.
    More prosaically, their search function is not strong. I searched for “speaker” and did not get several people in my own network that are speakers. Nor did I get you, Claire.
    Anyway, sorry again for the spam. I didn’t mean it.

  13. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for the tone of your writing style, but something about this just bugged me a little.

    I looked at your profile… have you done anything but post your photo and add the funny blurb about ‘the clients you’re seeking?’ It’s like staring at a hammer and getting angry that it hasn’t started wacking away at the nails yet. Referral Key and all other social media networks are tools. You can certainly debate their value, but c’mon, are you really testing/trying anything or just tossing a few funny jabs?

  14. Claire:

    Really creative idea and I can’t wait to see what happens.

    I too have received a bunch of inane emails
    (“taking on new clients…”) that to date I have ignored.

    While I’m very active on Twitter and Linkedin, I have had a
    healthy skepticism of ReferralKey.

    Thanks for stirring the pot !


  15. There are so many wishful thinkers around that believe that the good stuff happens without thought, planning, and intelligent, intentional effort. I suspect, from this post, that you are not a member of that club. Bravo.

    Your new book, as I am sure you know, does point the way to success in using these new social networking tools if someone is willing to apply what can be learned from it. But many will spend the time they could be using to create impact for good in the world and in their own lives seeking a shortcut and cursing when it just does not work.

    Work is just too much like work. I guess.

    Robert Curtis
    Santa Rosa Beach
    @sonfollower (on Twitter)