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Insight Communities – To Incentivize or Not To Incentivize

We get a lot of questions about whether or not to provide incentives when it comes to online insight communities. And the answer is? Drumroll please…well, it depends.

Our typical advice is we don’t like “pay-to-play” – it provides the wrong incentive structure and invites the wrong people and activities. However, research should not be about trying to suck as much data from respondents as quickly and cheaply as possible either – you get what you pay for! But, “pay” can come in many forms. It can be cold hard cash, interacting with fellow community members with similar interests, seeing your feedback and ideas come to life and simply knowing that your feedback is being heard.

Our recommendation is to build a community based around altruistic reasons to join and participate – “Hey, help us make the products and services you personally use better – really we are listening!” And, then from there be fair with people’s time – pay them as you would anyone else providing a valuable service when asking for significant chunks of time.

Below are a few factors to consider when determining if it makes sense to incorporate monetary incentives in your online research activity:

  • Activity length/time commitment – When you ask a participant to complete a longer activity, an incentive will help sustain their participation and ensure reliable and better-quality responses. If a participant can provide feedback very quickly or easily, an incentive may not be necessary.
  • Your audience – Is this is a case where participants are already intrinsically motivated to join the conversation? For example, your customers or employees may be more intrinsically motivated to respond to a survey than just your average Joe. The same is true for communities where members have a very strong affiliation with the brand/product/subject matter and will participate out of love for a product, brand or having the ability to interact and learn from their peers.
  • Activity type – What are participants going to do? If you are asking complex questions or questions that require a lot of thought, an incentive can help boost participation and it’s only fair to compensate someone for significant time or effort.
  • The alternatives – Monetized incentives shouldn’t be the only weapon in your arsenal. In a perfect world, you’d want engagement to be the main driver of participation. Consider using intangibles to add value to your community (e.g., Look what we’ve done with your feedback, etc.). It is important that participants are being listened to and feel they are making a difference. Be sure to let the community know they are heard– rewards are just the cherry on top of the insight pie!

How much? How much? How much? As with a traditional focus group, the incentive amount will vary with the type of participant and how much you are asking them to do. We have found that incentives (ranging from $5 to $25) given at regular intervals to each member who qualifies and successfully completes an activity. This normally amounts to about $1/minute.

We hope you have found this helpful – let us know your thoughts and ways you have found to be successful when it comes to incentivizing an insight community (both monetary and non). No incentive will be provided for your feedback to this blog post.