Can Rewarding Fans Ruin Your Relationships With Them?


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When users are awesome, you should reward them right?

Ehhhh…. maybe.

Rewarding your users can end up being a bad thing.

Why Bad?

We’ll start with an example.

Say  you have a message board, and there’s one user who loves your company so much that they visit every day, constantly helping other users, answering questions and contributing to the community.

This hypothetical super user doesn’t have any real motive for doing this other than to help a company that they genuinely care about. This is a very natural relationship.

Now, what happens when you reward this user?

Say you give them a new iPad, or a discount for your app.  By rewarding them, you’re now placing a value on that relationship. You’re telling them that their contributions are worth exactly *this much*.

Now, they may not be as motivated to continue as they were, because the relationship has a specific value attached to it.  It has a limit. It’s no longer natural.

Now of course, this isn’t always the case. It all has to do with your intentions. Are you rewarding these users because you’re genuinely grateful for their support and activity?  Give yourself a fist bump… you have the right mentality.

The less right mentality…

Where you will run into problems is when you try to use rewards as an incentive drive support and activity.

This can be the danger with “power user” programs that have a certain set of requirements in order for a user to become a part of this elite group. It tells users that you want them to be more active, but *this* is exactly how much you’re willing to do for them. It becomes a transaction, rather than a relationship.

Gamification (game based incentives to drive more activity) generally tends to have limited long term value. Turns out that after enough time, most people just don’t care about the points, badges, and rankings anymore.

Though worth noting, when your product is one of multiple seemingly indistinguishable options, rewards can be effective in winning over a potential customer. Credit companies proved that much.
So this isn’t not to say rewards don’t work to get you more activity in the short run. I’m just pointing out the grain of salt.

Reward users because you give a shit…not because you want them to.

Thanks to Thomas Knoll for inspiring the post.


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