The leading British technology and Internet apps blog Make Use Of recently launched a loyalty-cum-rewards program where readers earn points for sharing its articles on social networks.
In the past, I’ve come across rewards for filling forms, completing surveys and taking other actions but this is the first time I’m seeing a website rewarding social sharing in such a direct and explicit manner. (A whitepaper received by sharing a vendor’s web page on a social network is NOT a reward, even if I say so myself!).
Some might argue that if people find content truly worthy of sharing, they’ll share it without any incentive. Others might justify rewards on the ground that “a little something” always helps. Therefore, only time will tell whether this is a harebrained idea or portends the future of content marketing.
Moving on to the program mechanics, which is the real crux of this blog post:
I heard about its loyalty program from Make Use Of’s email, so the publisher already knows me. When I perform the required CTA, I’d authenticate myself via my preferred social network. Therefore, Make Use Of’s has more than one way to know my identity. Against that backdrop, I couldn’t understand why it wanted me to “open an account” as though I were a total stranger. Ticked off by this silly step, I didn’t bother to join the program.
Ironically, instead of delighting its customers, Make Use Of’s loyalty program can potentially put them off.
Is there a lesson for publishers and others who’re planning a similar loyalty program?
Companies can use technology to credit reward points in the background by self-enrolling customers, the way banks do. Credit card holders don’t need to enroll for any reward program or take any action to accrue points. As long as they keep making purchases on their eligible cards, reward points are automatically credited to their account.
Going one step further, companies can notify customers only when they’re eligible for a gift. While I couldn’t find any example of this in the loyalty industry, the success of PayPal proves how such an approach can stimulate greater usage and help acquire new customers: The leading PSP lets its customers send money to people who don’t have a PayPal account. (PayPal alerts beneficiaries that they’ve received money and lets them cash out their receipts only after they sign up for PayPal).
By following similar approaches, companies can reduce friction from their loyalty programs and gain more bang for their rewards buck.