Unless you’re a technophobe you’ve likely heard of the taxi app Uber. I used it for the first time back in 2014 and loved it, but it wasn’t until spring last year when I started paying attention to their “refer a friend scheme”.
Here’s how it works
You refer a friend to Uber and if they used your code you would get £10 off your next ride, and they’d get £10 off their first ride.
Brilliant! I just need more friends to refer, A LOT more friends.
I thought nothing of it until I saw someone I follow on Twitter asking if anyone had a code for a free ride. Unfortunately, I was late to respond and had missed my chance for a referral. But I had a light bulb moment where I thought to myself, if this person had asked for a code on Twitter then chances are other people were too.
Rather than manually searching for tweets to respond to, I thought I could just get a bot built that would find relevant tweets and automatically respond to users with my code.
However, I felt for sure that this would most likely have been done already, so decided to test it out with a few tweets.
So I tweeted “Does anyone have an Uber code” – I’ve since deleted the tweet but the only response I got was from @chrisldyson who tweeted me back with his code.
— Chris Dyson (@ChrisLDyson) April 5, 2015
To my amazement it didn’t seem that anyone else was doing it – I could see by the time lapse from the time stamps on tweets that some people were manually searching Twitter and responding, but nobody seemed to have set up a bot to auto respond.
So, I went to upwork.com and posted an ad to have my first Twitter bot created. It was made in python by a Kazakstan student studying in Prague and it cost me $20 in total (actual cost was $70, but I had a $50 coupon code).
How the bot works
The bot works by searching for tweets that had used keywords that included “uber code” and then responded to the tweet with a message telling people they could get a free ride by using my code.
The first version of the bot was sending too many tweets in quick succession, and responding to irrelevant tweets too, it wasn’t long before I got my account suspended. It needed tweaking.
The great thing about Twitter’s search functionality is that (just like Google) it allows you to filter out terms you don’t want to appear by using a minus sign. So for example I found a lot of people were posting their own Uber codes saying something along the lines of “use my Uber code for a free ride”. My bot was responding to these tweets which obviously weren’t the tweets I wanted to respond to, so edited the search to “anyone have uber code –my” (plus other variants) to respond to more targeted and relevant tweets.
I hosted what I believe to be the first bot to auto respond to Uber code tweets on digital ocean for $5 a month, and let it do its thing. In just over a year I have generated between 100 and 150 Uber referrals, approximately 2/3 Uber rides per week at a value of between £1,000 to £1,500 (if only it were actual cash).
Here’s a screen grab of some recent referrals
The way the referral codes worked meant that I only got £10 off of my next trip, so this meant that if a trip cost £11, I would get £10 off and pay £1. Most of my journey’s ended up being free, or costing a couple of quid. There were instances where I travelled further and knew the cost would go way over £10, so I’d ask the driver to stop half way, end the journey, and then begin a new one.
Screen grab of some trips I took in December
- Some people use Twitter to ask for things. If you can tap into that then there are opportunities to be had.
- Bots are spammy, but they can be useful for both if you can match people with exactly what they are looking for.
- An obvious one, but people trust others that they “know” over a random person (bot), so to have the best chance of success I needed my bot to be fast. This is why I got a got custom built bot over using ifft which can have up to a 5 min delay. That doesn’t sound like a lot but I think it can make a big difference.
Links to others who have had success with Uber referrals