Digital Risk vs Reward: Balance Wisely

Posted by: in Communication Strategy, Social Media Insights & Trends on November 3, 2011

In my 5+ years working in the business of digital communications, I have come across many a client with a very simple request: MORE!

  • More clicks!
  • More fans!
  • More views!
  • More downloads!
  • More app purchases!
  • More visits!
  • More send-to-a-friends!
  • More traffic!
  • More time on site!

And you know what? I dig it. I know we want more. There are investors to think about. Bosses to impress. Colleagues to show off to. Goals to be met. Moons to be jumped. Yes. More is the way to go. You certainly don’t pay an agency to get you LESS (unless it’s LESS negative coverage… which I think is called crisis communications, and I don’t get involved in that.)

But there is something key that must be considered when you go looking for your more. In the twenty-something vernacular of today, there is a term that is often accompanied by a hashtag: #Win (also acceptable: #Winning). In the marketing universe, I am comfortable enough to translate the term to something a little more basic: value. Then I’ll take it one step further: Reward.

Think about it. Every single interaction on the Web is an action. A decision. Clicking “like” on your fan page means I’ve just opened up my news feed to everything you’ll ever say. Signing up for your contest means I’ve opened my email box to future communication. Submitting my video means I may be judged by anonymous online peers and appear in spoof videos, at the mercy of bored people with a lot of time and a working copy of iMovie.

In other words, every action taken online is a RISK. We may not always be aware that it is a risk. But subconsciously, we are at least somewhat in tune with this fact. If we need to submit personal information like credit card info, or home address, or download a strange file with an extension we think we may have seen once in The Matrix, even moreso.

But things have changed. Trojan Viruses and million dollar payouts from a Nigerian banker who struck it rich are things of the past (or things our grandparents still worry about and fall for). No, these days, risks are much more granular. Do I really want your messaging flooding my tweet stream until I remember to unfollow you? Do I actually care enough to receive your eBlasts? Do I really want to take up one of the precious grid spaces on my iPad with your app icon?

Well, maybe!

(That’s the good news).

It really comes down to this: you can get your audience to take the RISK, but only if you provide an honest, transparent, enticing, and somewhat equal REWARD. This doesn’t have to be money, though that certainly is one of the greatest drivers to action. I’m pretty sure that I’ve been offered a chance to win an iPad 2 from my cable company, utilities company, three magazines and my local frozen yogurt place in the past few months.

But value can go beyond money and prizes. Perhaps you can offer one of the following:

  • Enjoyment (a competitive interactive game or experience)
  • Entertainment (people LOVE the funny… bring said funny in a video or download for starters)
  • Knowledge (not already-known info that is re-packaged for re-consumption, I mean truly interesting and new information)
  • Goodwill (can you donate to a cause in their name? Can others have their lives made better?)
  • Special Treatment (can I get info before everyone else?)
  • Bragging Rights (Can I tell my friends about what I did, and be proud/ feel cool about it?)

This is just a short list to get you thinking, but thinking is exactly what you need to do. It’s all well and good that you want MORE of something, but your audience is going to ask the very same of you. Because this is a two-way street. The phone works both ways, as my friends say when I complain that I haven’t heard from them in months.

And, sure, you can go out and just expect and demand that more come your way, but I suspect you won’t be as pleasantly surprised as you are hoping. To get, you have to give. Especially in a world (the Internet) where everyone is stampeding all over everyone else to earn those sweet, sweet clicks and keystrokes.

Am I going to bother entering your contest if this other company in the tab next to yours on my browser is offering me the chance at a fully tricked-out home entertainment system just for liking them on Facebook? Well, maybe. But I wouldn’t tell you to hold your breath.

Take a look at the risk you are putting out there for your visitor. And then ask:

  • Is the reward equal or better?
  • Is it clearly stated?
  • Is it honestly described?
  • Would I want this, were I in their shoes?
  • Would I download/buy/click/like/follow/share this?

Is your honest answer yes?

If not, you may need to about-face and head back to that Risk and Reward scale, and add a bit more to the reward side. Until you fix that balance, you may find that getting MORE is a lot more challenging than you expected.

By: Justin Buchbinder

Justin R. Buchbinder is a passionate blogger, Tweeter, YouTuber, Facebooker, and nightlife promoter.

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