How do you incentivize user content, without financial incentives? (e.g. user generated reviews?)
We're currently in the process of setting up a website as a resource for our city (Asheville NC) and we want to focus on providing useful information on businesses to people that currently live here, rather than just people visiting (since they are already well covered by places like Trip Advisor.)
Part of the usefulness of the website will come from users providing reviews of businesses that they have used, and we're currently looking at ways to incentivize people to leave reviews.
Do you have any ideas on how we can do that? We don't want to offer direct financial incentives (we don't have the budget for that), but we do have a few initial ideas including:
- A reviewer of the week or month, featured on the front page of the site
- Providing accolades that people can earn on the site (Top reviewer for a particular area)
- The opportunity to become an 'authority' reviewer in a particular area
- Weekly or monthly competitions with prizes like 2 for 1 vouchers or discounts from local businesses
Do you have any other suggestions on simple, effective ways that we could incentivize locals to leave reviews please?
I've helped an assortment of local businesses with marketing so I've got some perspective of the fundamentals. At the end of this response I have included some resources sharing what others are saying.
One of the most important reasons why customers leave reviews: they were asked by the business owner or manager. One option you might consider is postcards for your local businesses to hand to customers at the end of the transaction.
One of the most important reasons why customers don't leave reviews: you're asking too much of them. Look for ways to simplify the review process. Are customers required to log in to leave a review? How many fields or questions need a response from them? Less is more.
Your list of initial ideas looks good for engaging the champions of the reviews. Pareto's principle might apply: the 20% of reviewers who participate in the incentives program might account for 80% of reviews. Test each incentive for impact.
With my clients I recommend rolling out initiatives in 100-day projects so that can test for specific outcomes and pinpoint the impact of different tactics. Feel free to reach out if you're interested in learning about the methodology behind these projects.
And now, some resources:
Fast Company covered Yelp's approach:
KISSmetrics on the topic:
Here's my profile. Reach out if you think I can help more. http://www.mosaichub.com/member/p/sean-power
Your looking at a yelp type hub where people add their thoughts and reviews for local businesses. This done with no financial transaction, but depending on how the site is managed is it public or private, can you have advertisers that want to promote their company by give coupons, gifts rebates can you use the advertisers to financially support the site and use part of the funds towards incentives, be it cash, gifts, gift cards, sponsored events.
People love, accolades, points, super user rated and so on.
You need to ask does your organizations site that your are creating have the proper methods to track the transactions or types of incentives you want to do.
Promoting and marketing your site will be key to bringing people to your site and your content plan.
Paul M. there are many ways, digitally you can offer content on your customers interests, free e-books, free low cost digital products or services. Go to Warrior Forum.com, you'll find most of what you are looking for.
Paul, in addition to some of the great ideas you came up with I would reach out to your local chambers, community organizations, and networking organizations that serve Asheville and ask for their participation. The benefit for them is that they could help to create momentum in getting their business noticed. Also a number of local small businesses do business with other local small businesses so they could leave relevant information about their experiences. The business owners also tend to live in the same area as their business so they could help via word of mouth to grow your user base. As far as the construction of the site goes I would make it as easy and intuitive as possible to leave a review and I'd urge you to make sure the site is mobile friendly. You contributors to have an easy way to leave information at any time and most of the time people are on the go.
Investigate the concept of "gamification." It's just what it sounds like -- provide a framework for contribution that makes it feel like a game. Provide "points" for most frequent or most highly rated contributors. Get a competitive feeling going. Provide some kind of visual "badge" for top contributors. I see from your bulleted list that you've already arrived at some of these ideas. You're on the right track.
I understand the problem that it cannot be financial incentive all the time. Incentive can by including them in the community and giving them back useful reports, information and special offers. I can give example of a travel site where I was asked to give my review. Since then I keep getting promotions and also information on other hotels and reviews which could help me when I plan my travel. The trck will be to ,making the information useful enough that it serves as an incentive to contribute reviews. None the less this is tough one.
I think you should consider taking inspiration from mosaicHUB. Why? Because experts from various fields are posting their answers ( almost reviews ) with very little reward apart from 'badges' and being ranked higher than everyone else. mosaicHUB is a great example of asking people to do what seems to be quite tedious but rewarding them with badges, stickers or whatever you decide to call it. People love to belong to certain groups as well, perhaps worth considering 'Best Review' user group in which one only gets admitted upon reaching a certain threshold. I hope this helps and best of luck with your project!
Superb answers all, thanks so much for sharing your insight!
tell me something I don't know already.
if your site is going to stand out then you need a different approach. Take shoprite, bently or google and facebook for example they aim at giving great services and not bribing customers with ever ending competitions that people literally enter because they are bored.
I would suggest that you keep your site classy by having dreamy or certain type of professionalism to make your clients feel like they above all in this world.
Add a little sophisticated social environment that will keep the traffic moving in and out of your site by were users will get to discuss what you are selling or promoting.
that's my advice.
The users incentivized by direct financial incentives form a small percentage from the potential audience spectrum. The majority will be attracted only by making them feel associated to the business portal. To achieve that, we have to design it in a way to make it customer oriented rather than transaction oriented. Some tips could help you in this respect.
--Think of customer motives in buying your products and services.
--Address these motives and show these potential customers how your services are matching their needs.
--Make it an interactive site whereby complains and responses are dealt with in an open and transparent manner.
--Gradually, you will find that trust and customer confidence have reached an unprecedented level making the site your most powerful selling tool.
Wish you the best of luck.
Marketing advice at that level would normally cost you... and I assume it is costing (or going to cost) local businesses something to be on your site (via featured posts, ads etc.) Or maybe you are selling this type of site to a local tourist org or business consortium. In either case, scrape all you can from the free responses here and then go learn a little about "Gamification."
Local promo sites come in a lot of forms but they all wind up feeling like "review" sites.
Stop thinking that way and look at the bigger picture.
You are on the right track, get a scoring system somehow and points for reviewers who are frequent "quality" review, (Example would be reviews that are liked or receive good feedback on their review).
Let them know it is their input that is valuable and can be very helpful for the group.
I recently went to a social media networking event; actually I went to three. And the rule is, to get one, you give one. You want incentivization you reciprocate. It's like paying it forward. Here is a great new social networking tool you can check out that is going nationwide. My dear friend Phil Chivanne has built it and it is called www.socialcooler.com it's free to join and it has some great things happening within its platform. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Along with you idea to recognize people who actively review local businesses I recommend that you educate and incentivize at the the business level.
The stakeholders who have the most to gain from getting great reviews are the business owners. But the truth is most are not proactive about asking for reviews.
Have a 5 Star directory on your website listing businesses that reach and maintain a 4.5 to 5 star customer satisfaction rating with at least 5 reviews (based on Google model). You can set it up by business category and rank base on most 4-5 star reviews.
Additionally, on a weekly or monthly basis place a free banner ad at the top of each category for the business in that category that had the most 4-5 star reviews submitted during that time period.
This should incentivize local businesses to rally their customers to help them win a spot on the directory and the free advertising. This should have a trickle down effect with businesses coming up with their own incentives to get their customers to leave reviews.
Just make sure the page on your website where people can leave reviews is mobile friendly.
I also suggest that you set the review page up so people have to register to leave reviews and you set it up so they can register to leave reviews either by using Facebook to register or a verified email sign-up to help keep the review process legit.
Plus the extra social juice you can get by having your Facebook sign up app post the fact they signed up to be a reviewer (with you customized message) should help spread the word.
Also on the review page itself have it configured with all the social share buttons so they can share their reviews.
Some of the things local businesses can do to encourage their clients and customers to leave reviews is to have business cards, post cards and table tents etc printed up with the QR code and website address to make leaving a review as easy as possible. Then it's up to the local business if they want to offer some kind of incentive like a coupon for 10% off their next visit etc.
And while there should be an option to leave a text review I wouldn't make it mandatory and give them an option to just do a star rating.
I would require businesses to register to take part in your review program and design your review program to provide the option to alert business owners when reviews are posted. For good reviews on a daily or weekly digest basis and for bad reviews an immediate alert so that they have a chance to make things right with the customer as soon as possible.
If any of this sounds interesting to you but you might want some help implementing this I actually offer a reputation marketing system that could automate about 90 percent of this for you and the local businesses that would want to participate.
It also has additional features that would allow the business to fully leverage their review getting efforts to get more reviews positive reviews posted to the Google+ business page, Yelp and several other business directories as well as automate the marketing of their positive reviews through several social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.. All this in addition to getting reviews posted to your Asheville NC website.
If you want to find out more just contact me directly and I can show you what my system does. But in any case, I think you have a great concept and I think if you incentivize the businesses to in turn incentivize their customers you are going to have a big win for everyone.
Take care and all the best,
Those are great ideas. I don't know if you need to offer the vouchers. The recognition online should help them. If you have an employee who already does SEO or SEM work for the city, you may consider offering a 1 hour or 2 hour free training session for a local small business that is the reviewer of the week.
Can you set up a rotating internship with a college student (marketing or IT) to provide free SEM/SEO work for the weekly winner? You give an intern an opportunity to work with businesses and you give businesses an opportunity to build their online presence. Companies that do SEO/SEM work can charge $500 or more per month.
Also, talk with your Chamber of Commerce. They may want to partner with you. Also, the Board of Realtors. Welcome Wagon, etc.
If these ideas are useful, please post a review on my profile. Thanks.
I read through a lot of the suggestions and they are excellent and mirror my thoughts. The only other one I thought of and not sure if this is possible is for you to have a "review fair". Have people that have used a minimum number of local business and they live locally come to this fair. Have them fill out reviews for each business and then they get a "gift bag" on the way out. Of course, the gift bag is filled with coupons or incentive directly from the businesses being reviewed. The bags can be filled by volunteers (i.e. scouts, church, students)
Hope this and the other ideas work.
It would be great if you could circle bag and let us what you actually did and how it worked out.
Just some ideas to throw on the table.
If the reviewer has a business you might want to consider providing some free advertising for that business for the review or the best review.
Encouraging businesss to offer the discount vouchers, rather like a cross promotional activity.
The other ideas you mention Paul are good ones and could prove effective. people do like recognition and having them featured on the site with a photo and some info about them as a local may prove effective.
Anjother example of cross promotional activity is, you could ask local non profit organisations to provide reviews also. Reviews from them would likely be regarded as valuable and genuine as they have no profit motive. It would also promote them as a non profit organisation and assist in getting their cause more established and contributed to.
People want to belong to a community whether real or virtual so creating those characteristics can facilitate engagement. There are also ways to "reward" with virtual recognition. ex: 5 reviews makes you a "super user" you can send that notice and also create an applet to facilitate sharing that status attained with Facebook and Twitter. Linking reviews/remarks to Facebook also helps as it is already a place for socialized commentary.
Paul, just an idea: have an exclusive member's or visitor's page/library where more "exclusive" in-depth content, news, white papers, missives, a live cam of Asheville and your articles are available to visitors who review a set number of things (5-10) This incentive hauls in people without monetary incentives. It does attract folks with more time to do so. That may or may not be a plus for your desired base. Another is to affiliate with local service providers that cater to vacation rentals/homes/condos. You can offer ad space or an interview for a discount on services, i.e.; cleaning services, concierge services, handyman on call, etc.
I know this isn't directly answering your question but I hope it still helps:
If you want to incentivize users to leave reviews then you have to ask yourself a lot of questions outside of the ones your asking. First of all, why would users come to your site instead of one of the many other business review websites that are available right now? What do you offer about businesses that makes you unique, or how do you offer it that others don't? Once you answer this, people will naturally begin to flow to your site and use it as a resource. Once you have this in place, it's really just a matter of time before you get plenty of reviews.
Now to answer more directly:
People aren't incentivized by most non-financial incentives. Except by their ego. If a person has an opportunity to leave a review and be "hailed" in someway, this will incentivize them to leave more reviews. A point system is the simplest way to improve and increase user reviews. The point system doesn't even have to provide any real world benefit. You'll be surprised how much this incentivizes people.