How to Use Incentive Programs to Grow Your Online Community - dummies

How to Use Incentive Programs to Grow Your Online Community

By Deborah Ng

Customer or membership incentive programs bring in new online community members and reward existing members for their loyalty, especially in a product- or service-based community. For example, some Facebook communities offer discounts and coupons only to members of their page. These member-only offers make customers feel special and exclusive.

Here’s how you can use word-of-mouth from incentive programs bring in new members:

  • Offer rewards for online customers only. If you receive e-mail newsletters and online updates from your favorite catalog companies or retail shops, you may notice coupons and discount codes for online customers only.

    Because so many people are online, these rewards are not only a good way to drive sales to both online and offline stores, but it also helps with community growth as more folks join up and opt in to receive perks and socialize with other customers.

  • Utilize location-based rewards. Location-based smart phone apps, such as foursquare and Gowalla, are ideal for rewarding customers who visit offline businesses. Once a member checks in by finding the business on the location-based app and clicking the button, he will then be able to unlock hidden rewards.

  • Hold online scavenger hunts. Have a scavenger hunt and hide prizes among your various online haunts. Invite the community to find specific items hidden in blog posts, forum posts, tweets, and Facebook updates, or a mixture of each. Award prizes to the winners who find them all.

  • Award loyalty discount points. Award points to community members for longevity and participation. They can then trade points for discounts, merchandise and prizes.

For most members of your community, the camaraderie of like-minded people is enough. Still, it’s always a good idea to offer incentives to new members and reward the veterans for their loyalty.