Yesterday Bloomberg Businessweek reported on a brilliant idea by a Korean tech entrepreneur and magazine professional: Won Hee Chang has developed a strategy for possibly "coercing virality" on the social Web, a move that may help her Seoul-based literary magazine gain new revenue and audiences.
“Readers who share content via social media will be able to access additional articles for free,” writes Businessweek‘s Caroline Winter. “Content, available in English, will initially be free. When readers log on to the site for the first time, they’ll receive a certain number of points—Chang calls them ‘karma points’—which will slowly be depleted as they click through articles. To restock on points and maintain access, they will have to share the site’s stories through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s a bit like multilevel marketing—the more readers spread articles, the greater their access. Those who bristle at being asked to share content can buy points; five points will cost 99¢.”
This is an excellent concept that can extend beyond paid content models. Here are a few examples that could work:
Contests: Setting up a contest or sweepstakes can be a great way to leverage Chang’s tactic. Content providers can award readers with points for a contest or sweepstakes if they share articles. The more articles they share, the more points they earn to better their chances of winning the contest or sweepstakes prize—and publishers can get their brand in front of more readers who may not have been interacting with them on a social basis before.
Discounts: Team up with an advertiser to offer discounts or free products. Users can get access to these special offers or products by earning points for sharing out articles or sponsored content. It provides your advertising partner with instant gratification, and could be part of a larger value-add. In addition to an advertiser, a brand could use this tool to help them to boost subscriptions—the more points earned, the lower the price of a yearly print or digital subscription, incentivizing untapped leads.
Content: Like Chang’s model, provide exclusive content for those who earn points by sharing out links. Put the threshold for points earned at a lower level: If a user shares two stories they’ll earn enough points to get access to an exclusive video, photo gallery or even the rest of a story.
Some brands are already taking steps in this direction: Entertainment Weekly rolled out 11 covers in anticipation of the new season of HBO’s True Blood last June. Before the newsstand reveal, Entertainment Weekly’s social media editor leveraged the 11 covers to gamify her Facebook posts, slowly revealing the covers and then asking users to comment to see more. It was the most viral post of the month—it drove nine times more likes, five times more comments, and 19 times more shares on Facebook than the average post. The issues also garnered the second highest number of single copy sales, likely a result of the increased consumer awareness.
This same approach could be taken, but instead of doing the reveal on Facebook for generating comments, users could get this exclusive content from the points they earn from sharing out the promotion, and brands could develop a special landing page on their own sites to reveal the, in this case, exclusive cover photos.
T.J. Raphael is the Associate Editor of FOLIO:. Follow her on Twitter: @TJRaphael