Should You Use “Bribes” To Get New Community Members?

Seth Godin

Seth Godin


Seth writes the world’s most popular marketing blog. And is the founder of Squidoo.

It’s hard to get the first members of a community. So why not bribe people to join? Some of the past Mixergy interviews suggest that it’s the way other communities start.

Here’s a response to that issue from Seth Godin, founder of Squidoo and author of Tribes:

Let’s be really clear on the semantics. A “bribe” is when you give somebody money to do something that is against their nature or against their fiduciary duty. When you give a congressperson money to vote against her constituents.

I don’t think bribes are a good idea. I think that recognition and rewards are a great idea.

If you go to any spiritual institution, there’s always some layman up on the podium who’s being recognized for doing something. A friend of mine worked for the pope of the Eastern Orthodox Church. They had a brand new building in Istanbul.

He walked in and there are pictures of all the popes who’ve been there before, lining the walls. And right over the guy’s shoulder is a more modern one. He says, “Who’s that?”

The Pope said, “Oh, that’s Dr. So and So from New Jersey. He gave us the money to build the building.”

I’m not sure he did it so he could get his oil painting in there. I don’t think it’s a bribe. But I think it’s recognition.

What tribe leaders understand is that you need to treat different people differently. And that different people are going to contribute differently. And that recognizing them makes perfect sense.

The other thing that you notice is that tokens and prizes and rewards are valued far out of proportion to their costs. Because people don’t do it for the ball of cotton from China. They do it because being recognized is one the things humans want more than anything else.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.