What’s the best way to tap into peer advertising? Do you offer giveaways for customer retweets? Or how about checking Klout scores and offering preferential treatment to your most influential users in exchange for reviews? These techniques may have their place, but no one is all that enthused about spamming their friends’ feeds or knowing that Mr. Popular is still eating life off a silver platter.

A more appealing way to incentivize brand involvement is to make it fun. Make it something your participants can feel proud of. When people are doing something for its own sake and not because of an iPod giveaway, your company will be part of their lives in a way both of you feel good about.

Here are a few standout ways different companies have done themselves and their customers proud:

Marmite’s Elite Society Membership

Marmite is a sandwich spread. Only a few people can get excited about sandwich spreads… but if you’re a sandwich spread company, those are just the people you want to celebrate. The company we are social¬†took Marmite’s new extra-strong flavor launch to a whole new level by seeking out self-proclaimed Marmite enthusiasts online, inviting them to a posh taste-testing session, and inducting them into the newly-formed Marmarati club. Marmite took a few enthusiastic fans and gave them something to talk about for years.

SolidWorks’ Forum Badges

Maybe you don’t have the resources to organize a gala event. But you can probably add digital badges to your forums without too much fuss. This is a common type of user incentivization, and I’m showcasing SolidWorks because it fits particularly well with their business model. SolidWorks sells simulation software for 3D design. With a product like this, naturally a lot of user questions come up and they need to offer tech support. SolidWorks manages part of this burden by tapping into its own user base, and making them feel good about contributing. The SolidWorks forum is constantly humming with questions. Peers who provide good answers to other user’s questions get points towards a medal for their forum avatars and designation as MVPs. This is a great way to encourage tech-savvy users to share the love.

Dropbox’s Dropquest Puzzle Challenge

Dropbox is a file-syncing service that lets you easily access your files from multiple devices. You get 2.5 GB of storage for free. There are various ways to get more free space by engaging with the company, but by far the most fun one is the once-a-year “Dropquest” with 1 GB of free space as the prize. I personally participated in the game this year, and it’s actually fun on its own merit, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys word and number puzzles. And the prize is directly related to the company’s service – they’re not giving away cruise tickets. It works, too. I can tell you that Dropbox occupies a much more prominent place in my mind after playing a couple hours of Dropquest.

by Sharon Campbell