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Why We Should Be Careful With Social Media Rewards Programs

Reward your best fans.


Every company, brand, team, or program should strive to do just that – in the arena, stadium, or online.  That’s why in spirit the idea of social media rewards programs for college programs seemed incredible, almost too good to be true — Take your most loyal fans and empower them (and reward them) for being just that.  But after seeing these programs begin to spread across the college landscape, I wanted to offer up a counter point:

You don’t need a rewards program to reward your best fans.

Here’s why you should think differently.

1.  Having a Social Media Rewards program can change how you go after goals.  That sounds pretty crazy — after all, why would having a program for your fans change what you do?

Take a look at the post below:

An approach to drive use of a social media rewards program









I don’t think the post had the wrong intentions at all.  I do, however think that having the program made Mississippi State think about mentioning the points a fan could earn, rather than simply telling an amazing story to get people talking.  But, by doing this, they miss the boat completely.  Twitter and Facebook chatter around programs are dominated by the performance of athletes, teams, and experiences around this.  So, do something amazing or tell an amazing story and people will talk about you.  This program took MSU’s focus away from telling a real story.


2.   Social Media should be about the fan, not about us.  As programs, our goal should be to have great fan engagement wherever our fans go to connect.  We shouldn’t dictate what social networks are better for our fans.  Let them decide where and how they want to stay engaged with us.  As you can see in the example points breakdown from Auburn below, checking in at an Official Event on Foursquare earns 2000 points.  Sharing something from Auburn’s Facebook page is worth 500 points.  Re-Tweeting from their Twitter page is worth 250.

Is Facebook twice as important as Twitter?  Is Foursquare that much more valuable than the other two?  As you can tell, the point system complicates the act of being a fan…  and doesn’t accomplish what we want:  Highly engaged communities in every network we participate in.

























3.  Knowing your best fans is critical, and shouldn’t be (or feel) automated.   If you could know who your most loyal fan was, what would you say to him or her?  No doubt you’d want to offer an incredible personal experience for them…  But, as you can see in the example from UTSA below, point systems can be automated and less personal.  They don’t set us up to offer the kind of connection we want to have with our best fans.


So what do you do?

Said differently, how do you do this on your own, without a complicated points system?  As you can see here, and in the video below, the Missouri Valley Conference creates experiences to reward the best fans in each of their social networks:  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


What’s different?

1.  This is about the best fans within a network, not across all networks.  The Valley doesn’t place more weight on any one network.  Simply participate and win in the network(s) you love.

2.  It’s very simple.  Answer a trivia question correctly (and first) and you get 5 points.  Do it second and get 4 points, etc.  Instagram’s leaderboard rewards the top 5 photos each week.

3.  Reward action, not liking or sharing.  In this program, points are based on knowing trivia answers or taking amazing pictures.  I love seeing the deeper level of engagement get noticed.

As you can see in this example, doing a rewards system the right way can be much more labor intensive to pull together… but that’s exactly what we need.  We should feel good if we are investing our time to learn about our fan bases and deliver amazing experiences for the most engaged fans.

Thanks for reading today.  This is a big topic that, no doubt, will continue to spark.

Please consider following along on Facebook (here) or Twitter (here).

I’d love to hear your thoughts!