For the sake of this article let's forget about search engines, paid leads and your own affilate programs. Let's concentrate instead on pro's and con's of putting much effort into recruiting downlines in those multi-level "viral" programs that are intended to help you promoting.
We are talking about services that will be showing show your ads to other people (like link exchanges), or your sites (traffic exchanges, autosurf program etc.), or let you send emails to people (opt-in lists etc.), and you will get more of that if you recruit people to your downline.
It's of course nice and sometimes even profitable to be receiving lots of credits for lots of people, when these credits automatically turn into extra free promotion for whatever you need to promote. Still... You have certainly many times seen those diagrams showing you black on white how easily it is to recruit millions of people into your downline - you only need to recruit 2 (or 4, or 10), and they in their turn only need to do the same... Yes, it is logically without a flaw. It's also easy - on in an ad or on a webpage.
I personally think that promoting on the Web is a lot like investing your money, no matter if it's free or paid promotion. When you invest money, you must realize that there's risk involved, that your money will be tied up for some time, during which you would be able to use it for something else. And so on. Now, promoting your wonderful product or opportunity directly will be like direct promoting any brick-and-mortar product offline. Or like promoting a shop if it's not a product but an opportunity. On the other hand, building a downline in order to be able to promote more intensively would be like... Well, like striving to marry into an advertising agency, in order to be able to use it to promote your product or your shop.
You will probably aggree that in most cases it would be something of an overkill. Building downlines, or trying to marry into biznesses, can take quite a lot of time. You may be better off if you use this time to directly promote your splendid product. For example using the same services - I don't mean to say that all traffic exchanges, opt-in lists etc. are useless! I'm only not too keen on putting too much effort into building your dowlines in them, at the expense of marketing money-earning products.
Why is that you may ask? If you're not completely new to the Internet business you will know: most people in all downlines will never be very active, and very few will remain active for any longer time. And if you're only counting on the first surge of their enthusiasm, then you will do better trying to use it for buying your product. OK, perhaps not exactly the same people, but that's not a big problem, is it? It will be easier to find other people, whose enthusiasm will be compatible with your wonder-product, than it will be to keep the fire burning in your downlines heart forever and ever.
Do I mean that you should never try refer anybody in those traffic generating or promoting programs? Not at all! I believe that you should be doing it in a few special cases:
1. when some promising service of this sort has just appeared and you're one of the first people who have the chance to promote it;
2. you should be giving your referral links to your downlines that need promotion;
3. you may give your referral links to people you're are in contact and who may be grateful for this;
4. whenever you can seamlessly integrate promoting such services in some bigger useful context - like articles, webpages, other ads etc.;
5. for a short time in cases when there's something special that makes such promotion unusually effective - a splendid new banner they've created for their service, a popular Guru endorsing it, a very catchy name etc.
To use our previous analogy - you can have a quick romance with the advertising agency owner, his/her daughter or perhaps grand-son. You can even marry that person, if you both really feel like that. It just doesn't seem to be the most natural way of selling products, does it?
In most cases my suggestion would be to concentrate on marketing your primary product, service or opportunity - the one that's supposed to earn you money.
Piotr Obminski is an Internet marketer living in Poland. He sometimes writes articles, ebooks etc.. He used to work as translator, freelance journalist, programmer, unskilled laborer and many other things. He's open for interesting JV proposals.