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 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Many people love getting free information - so if you arrange the reviewer access to some privileged material from the author - they will be appreciative.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.