Awards such as the Open Web Awards are a great way for members of a community to show support for the free services they find valuable, and giving something back to the people who run them.
What’s In It For Me?
Honestly… nothing directly, unless the community owner pays you to vote for them, either directly or with prizes.
I must admit I am not a big supporter of offering prizes and gifts to encourage participation. As an example I can encourage you to join the Collective Thoughts Community on MyBlogLog, but I am not going to offer a specific incentive.
I have found that most sites offering prizes to achieve a specific marketing goal, having achieved their objectives, abandon the communities while moving onto other targets.
Have you gained benefit from using the community? If so you should think about giving something back freely.
They Make Money From Me Already
Most social communities ARE free, but still have some level of monetization
- Advertising many people generally ignore
- User data they might in some way exploit
- Link juice they exploit for other commercial properties
The income earned by many communities wouldn’t be sufficient to pay for extensive commercial advertising, thus they have to rely on other methods.
Viral Growth By Word Of Mouth Marketing
Whilst you might think many of these communities, especially the more niche sites are raking in huge amounts of money, ultimately many of them grow only through word of mouth marketing.
The money they make is sufficient to cover server costs, and sometimes staff wages, but there is very little additional funding to cover paid advertising unless they have gained some significant additional funding.
Many communities grow through various forms of viral marketing, such as inviting friends by email, widgets on blogs etc, and many mercenary webmasters might look on that as being a sufficient (and often short-lived) contribution.
I Gave Up My Screen Real Estate, Isn’t That Enough?
I have been a strong supporter of various blogging communities for a long time, and am often criticized on their effect on page loading times, the amount of screen real estate they take up, and what benefit I really gain from supporting them.
Ultimately the biggest gain is being part of a community, the fabric of the web and the blogosphere that holds things together, a conduit or hub of the community rather than an end point.
It is hard to measure community, it is also hard to measure community spirit.
Giving Something Back
Think about giving something back to the communities you find most valuable, whether it be MyBlogLog, Bumpzee, Blogcatalog, Sphinn, Mixx, Digg, PlugIM, Facebook