Do you want thousands of engaged brand evangelists out there reading and sharing your content online? I’ve decided it’s very easy: pay them.
Not in actual money– that just makes everyone feel dirty. There are other ways– free offline subscriptions, gift certificates, concert tickets, etc. Whatever your audience wants, give it to them for helping you spreading your brand. It’s not Pay-per-Post (SocialSpark) or Sponsored Tweets per se. It’s that and more. Reward your most engaged users and encourage others to be more engaged. Barter with them for their attention.
Take Real Simple magazine, for example. I’ve subscribed for years and I feel like they know what I want– clean design, efficiency tips, and a little bit of aspirational voyeurism. I visit their website to look up recipes I’ve seen in the magazine or to help me remember when to throw out condiments. I’ve been known to send articles to friends when I think they’d be interested. I wouldn’t mind visiting more, but it’s just not a part of my normal Internet routine.
There are a lot of sites like this– full of engagement potential and not taking full advantage of their great content. I’m going to continue with the Real Simple example and leave it to you to imagine how it could translate to different industries and brands.
Let Me Earn Points
I like to earn points (e.g., airline miles, cash back bonuses) and get things for “free.” I don’t want to have to collect things, mail them in, or redeem codes– that’s for kids. The system I’m proposing would keep track of all your points for you and alert you when you were eligible for prizes. For the Real Simple brand it’s got to be simple!
Create a system that keeps track of users actions on your site and rewards them for the interactions you value most. For instance, if I visit your site, I should get 1 points. If I sign up for your newsletters, I should get 3 points. If I share a link to an article or website via e-mail or Twitter, I should get 5 points.
Show me clearly when opportunities to earn points exist, but don’t over do it. I should be able to use your site passively without feeling like a pushy salesperson is breathing down my neck.
Convert Points to Stuff
Real Simple has great advertisers with products and services I want. Real Simple also finds speciality items that I never knew about, but now want. In summary, they know what I want and where to get it. If I were following them on Twitter, I’d love to see them say, “Earn 60 points between now and July 31st and receive the cool cake cutter/spatula from this month’s issue of Real Simple. (link).” That thing is cool and I’d like to have one, so I’m going to work on earning the points.
Obviously, there would need to be some ground rules. Maybe you shouldn’t be able to earn more than 10 points a day. And you shouldn’t be able to combine points across acounts. Don’t try to stiffle me too much, but if you want legitimate brand engagement, you have to try to weed out the riff raff.
Remind Me to Earn Points
I’m more busy than I’ve ever been. I’m sitting on my bed with my laptop while my son sleeps right now and in 20 minutes my in-laws will be here. So, there is a chance that I’ll forget about that cake cutter/spatula quickly. So, let me opt in to reminders via e-mail, SMS, or Twitter. And give me an extra point or two for doing so because I’ve just given you permission to talk to me on a daily basis for the next month.
When I sign up to become a point earning, ask me if I blog and use Twitter and Facebook. Then make me a brand ambassador by asking me to share things with my network. E-mail users with blogs and say, “Emily, we know you blog and we’d love it if you shared our latest issue with your audience. Add this code to your site for 30 days and earn enough points for your cake cutter/spatula instantly.” I tell you right now, if I ever get an e-mail like this you’ll be seeing an add for Real Simple in an instant.
It’s the trifecta! The audience is choosing to engage more deeply with a brand they already like– and are getting great gifts. Real Simple has an engaged user visiting your site on a daily basis, viewing ads and sponsored content, and sharing it with others. The company that makes the great gift is getting more awareness and likely sales (because I might have to get another cake cutter/spatula to give as a gift!)
Expensive to Implement?
I know it probably sounds expensive, but the gifts themselves would come with a keep discount from the advertiser (who is a winner in all this as well). Building the point tracking system is an investment, but if built correctly, would quickly become a marketing asset used over and over. Real Simple would need some staff to monitor blogs, audit Twitter accounts, and craft the giveaway campaigns, but I’m sure they have a great marketing team already. I really think it could pay for itself very easily.
I wish I had access to Real Simple‘s metrics, but let’s just imagine that they get 1,000 referrals per day from Twitter and another 1,000 from blogs. If the giveaway was enough of an entincement, I could see that easily quadrupling. I know I have at least three friends who wouldn’t mind the cake cutter/server, so if they see I’m earing one for free, they’ll sign up as well. Page views from unique visitors should rise steadily as a result and that means ads and sponsored content are being viewed more often– ca ching! Onsite conversions to the actual magazine might not increase as dramatically, but the free trial issue Real Simple already has on their site coupled with the giveaway seems very promising.