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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

Community Insights # 1: Intrinsic Rewards Vs Cash

What is an intrinsic reward? It’s simply a reward of personal satisfaction from completing a task.  For example performing a puzzle, answering a ‘yahoo question’ or adding more information to wikipedia.  The web is filled with these mini ‘requests’ which each require a time investment and often brain power – yet they rare rarely rewarded. And rightly so. The flip side to this is offering a monetary incentive for members, visitors and anyone whom completes the same tasks.

Whereby you might be asked ‘Answer this question and receive $1’ or ‘write a blog and get $10’. Each occupy both time and brain power yet greatly transform the approach the participant will take.

So the question remains:  How can I incentivize my community to be active? Should I use cash rewards or digital rewards (intrinsic)?

To put it simply – most definitely go for the intrinsic rewards.  As studies will show not only does it become very expensive for you, there is no evidence to suggest offering a standardized monetary reward scheme delivers any better results than simply making the activity intrinsically rewarding.

A monetary reward will often create immediate responses and successes.  Yet performed over a longer period of time the ‘expectation’ of cash (or similar) has been shown to demotivate the participant when compared to offering no rewards.  The joy of completing a task, whether it be a blog, a comment, a rating or a review of something can in itself be gratifying and not require a cash incentive.

For more research on these studies refer to research originally performed by Harry Harlow.  Although it is over 50 years old,  it applies just as much to today’s digital world as it did back when a Coca Cola was 5 cents.  For more recent examples of this incredible psychology just go to wikipedia and ask yourself – how was this site created?

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