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We need to think about consumers, brand fans, and potential community participants as people. It’s sometimes easy to forget they are just like the mostly-well-meaning, flawed, ambitious, insecure, time-strapped individuals we see around us each day. The more we internalize this fact, the more careful we’ll be in designing a community experience for them.

We need to realize here that we have deep work to do in order to motivate people to join a brand community and then participate on a consistent basis.

The motivators you’ll need to use can be slotted into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. You’ll want a mix of the two in your community.

Extrinsic motivators:

These are externally originated rewards that can motivate someone in your community to contribute to your brand. Here’s a list of some commonly used extrinsic motivators in brand communities, starting with one of the most potent:

  • Direct payment for efforts (this could be a traditional currency or cryptocurrency)
  • Profit sharing for co-created products
  • Complimentary brand products or services in-kind
  • Gift cards
  • Opportunities to win prizes
  • Creative or other support for a consumer’s personal projects, particularly those related to the brand’s purpose
  • Brand amplification of a consumer’s social media profile or content

The scale at which these items are delivered matters. A one-in-ten chance to win a prize is a far different motivator than a one-in-a-thousand chance. Being paid a one-time fee of fifty dollars (or getting a gift card) for your efforts to co-create a product doesn’t move the needle the way a one percent share of the gross revenue that same product delivers does. And so on.

Intrinsic motivators:

Intrinsically motivating factors are central to who someone is, what they feel and care about. The intrinsic is something that brings a person value and meaning and resonance simply by the act of doing it and not because the person is getting any external reward for it.

For example, someone may play a sport long past the point where they realize they’ll never be paid for it, because they get great joy in the experience of just playing. Someone may read fantasy books simply for the immersive experience of being in different, exciting worlds that will never exist in real life. They can’t monetize the act of reading and there’s no external reward, but it’s still highly valuable to them. In a brand community, someone might be motivated by solving a problem, or creating something cool or fun for a brand, even without the promise of external compensation.

As you plan a brand community, think through the mix of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators you intend to use. And maybe give a bit more thought to one in particular – the intrinsic value human beings see in being part of a community.

Stay tuned to the blog for more on that topic.