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 believe people inherently want to be helpful. Social currency and cred points is a big deal to a lot of people. But they will only be helpful on your site if they see that the site can indeed help them project their helpful selves. They want to be surrounded by similarly helpful people who will acknowledge them for their efforts.
And so it becomes a chicken and egg problem. How do you get helpful people to be helpful without the presence of other helpful people??
My suggestion would be to start populating the site with your own reviews first. And not just as yourself, but open up multiple accounts, get your closest friends, families and supporters to open accounts and start leaving the kinds of reviews that you'd like to see others leave.
Quora did this in its early stages - it spent a ton of time and effort in populating the site with self-sourced answers that mimicked exactly the kind of content they wanted others to leave. And then they started sharing the site wherever they suspected their target customer segments to exist (e.g. twitter, hackernews, etc.). Pretty soon people started valuing the high quality answers and wanted to be a part of the community of educated and helpful people, and they started posting their own answers afterwards. It was brilliant and it worked.
Think about how you may resemble Quora in this respect. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal user and ask yourself what would make you want to leave a review and what kind of review would it be? What would you, as a user, want to get out of it? Get deep, and get real.
So here's something not to do: my town set up a sort of "Suggestion Box" and then asked for user ratings and comments on the suggestions. Except that the rating system had no means to downvote suggestions! You could upvote ones you liked, but negative votes and comments were discouraged. According to the software provider, "We like to keep it positive." Needless to say, my inability to comment in a balanced way eliminated my participation permanently.
In terms of things you *can* do: you can solicit comments by having a series of "badges" or the like based on, for instance, the number of submissions a user has made. Look, for instance, at TripAdvisor which has 6 levels of badges. Earning them is fun (I am a top-level contributor to TripAdvisor) and, more importantly, displaying them next to a review gives others a quick tool to assess the credibility of the review.
In a related idea, you can go with what Klout had: if your Klout score was high enough, you got free offers from businesses because they knew that a tweet from you meant a lot of people would be influenced to come to the business. You can do the same, either by allowing reviewers to be "followed" or by counting "helpful" ratings on their reviews (again, see TripAdvisor).
“Why do people work and participate for ‘free’?
The answer lies rather in a more expansive view that acknowledges, as well as the role of economic motivations, notions of enjoyment and having fun together with identity and the social benefits of community. Beyond pecuniary benefits, extrinsic reasons for participation include job market signaling and skill and reputation building. In this type of platforms, participants don’t need high-level credentials to directly demonstrate their abilities in highly specialized domains.
A strong sense of identity and community belonging also motivates participation. Individuals who strive to be active players in the community are inclined to act in a manner consistent with its norms. Contributors are socialized by their participation into acting in a way that advances the collective.
Look for some literature on non-financial rewards for crowdsourcing to get specific examples. Dawson (2011) defines some non-financial rewards such as:
- interesting work: The best providers are highly intelligent and often more motivated by doing exciting, challenging projects than by money.
- experience: Building specific experience and in particular a portfolio of work is an important part of newer providers establishing their career.
- Learning: Developing skills through doing new types of work or specific education enables providers to expand their scope of work and to grow personally.
- reputation: There is little more valuable for a provider than excellent feedback scores and testimonials, especially when they are starting out.
- referrals: Recommending excellent providers to your friends and personal network creates significant value for them as well as the freelancers.
- partnerships: Giving trusted partners the opportunity to participate in the upside of projects or initiatives will bring out the best.
- Gifts are a great way to let providers know they’re doing a great job. Most will prefer financial rewards but small gifts, for example at Christmas or to reward exceptional effort, help cement relationships.
- social interaction: In some cases providers have limited opportunities for social interaction and will enjoy being part of a team and sometimes discussing topics other than work.
Hope you find this useful.
Many people love getting free information - so if you arrange the reviewer access to some privileged material from the author - they will be appreciative.
The best factor to incentivize user content is to construct a content top based on its quality and public information usefullness as well as its exposition to the public and consequent recognition from the content's author. A higher author's exposition which is a way to do publicity without paying for a marketing campaign that is very expensive.
If you are reviewing others products and services... go to them and have them offer discounts, gift cards, etc... that you can then pass on to your reviewers!!!
Keep in mind financial incentives do not have to be in cash.... if you can afford a % off of your profit then discount.
Exposure is also a beautiful thing... though if you are working B2C...consumers may not care about it, but other businesses certainly love free press. I provide content (to groups strategic to my goals)...ONLY for exposure, so I can get my brand, name and services out there.