Every time you need to use an incentive to get people to do something in the community, you've failed.
There are two problems with incentives.
First, they're often expensive and time-consuming. It's easy for an organisation to become over-reliant on incentives.
Second, and most importantly, on a psychological level it has a negative long-term effect. Members who join to get an incentive will always associate their action with that reward and not motivation to participate in a great community.
Embrace human behaviour and motivation theory instead.
- Do you need to use an incentive to get people to join? Or do you need to work on your invitation, initiate things in the community people want to join the community to participate in and encourage members to bring their friends to join?
- Do you need to use an incentive to get people to participate? Or do you need to start interesting discussions, prompt people to participate and help them make the types of contributions which beget future contributions?
- Do you need to use an incentive to get people to give you feedback on your products? Or do you need to embrace the herd principle and find a small group of people to begin giving feedback and use these people to influence others?.
Tangible incentives are what bad community managers use. Embracing human behaviour and basic motivations are what great community managers use. Which do you want to be?
For more tips on developing and managing online communities on behalf of brands, join the Pillar Summit's Professional Community Management mailing list (and receive a free copy of The Proven Path; a 90-page eBook which will explain how to get a branded community started).