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Perks for New Online Community Members

Here’s a question for you: Though you as community manager want your online community members to take a specific action, what’s in it for them beyond having a conversation with a brand?

As awesome as you may think that you and your brand are, that general awesomeness won’t always catch a potential member’s eye and invite her into the community. If you’re expecting sales, signups, or brand evangelism, you’re going to have to have something to offer beyond conversation.

Unless your online community is one in which hobbyists and enthusiasts share their passion or come to find out about a specific topic, getting members to rally around your brand may be a hard sell.

People enjoy certain brands, but they’re generally aren’t so enthusiastic that they’ll visit the community each day or talk about the brand on the social networks. They need a little bit of enticement to visit your community, participate in the conversation, and especially evangelize your brand.

To generate this kind of brand loyalty, it’s a good idea to offer perks and swag:

  • Offer T-shirts to everyone who signs up for your newsletter. Everyone likes shirts. Even people who don’t wear shirts with logos or words on them want to take them home to give to a family member or to sleep in. Because most Internet giveaways are inexpensive and even flimsy, a T-shirt is desirable swag.

  • Provide discount coupons for making a certain number of comments. Most new members sign up for a brand’s online community to receive free or discounted products. If you have a great product or service, and you can entice members to buy by using a discount code, they’ll buy again if they like the experience. You may not get 100 percent return, but even 20 percent would be significant.

  • Announce different levels of perks for different levels of community commitment. If new members know that they’ll receive perks for participation, and that they’ll receive more perks the more they participate, they’re more likely to become active members of the community. They’re also more apt to spread the news to friends, family members, and people they meet online.

  • Offer special badges and avatars for various levels of participation. Community members love to show off their commitment. By giving them badges to display in their community profiles or widgets to display on their blogs, you not only let members show their level of participation and commitment to the brand, but also entice nonmembers to find out what all the fuss is about.

    When you award special badges for a certain number of comments or years of participation, members who earn them will feel super special, and members who aren’t so active will want to achieve the same awards.

List the perks for all levels of participation on a specific welcome or landing page so that potential members know they’ll receive cool stuff and freebies for various levels of commitment. Offer incentives for members to tweet about their rewards or post pictures on a special page so that nonmembers can see these perks and benefits and sign up as well.

People don’t want pitches; they want perks. If you want them to buy your stuff or evangelize your product, you’re going to have to offer something valuable in return. Truthfully, most people don’t want to read newsletters, especially from a brand that’s looking to sell products, but they may be inclined to subscribe to a newsletter if they know that they’ll receive something worthwhile.

If you continue to offer discounts in your newsletters, members won’t trash the newsletters as soon as they receive their gifts.

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