Modern White Paper Marketing: How To Create Readable, Shareable, And Successful White Papers

For 13 years something has hung on top of my desk, right where I can see it.

It’s a certificate recognizing my contributions as part of the Microsoft Regional Director Program, an honorary position was conferred to me based on my contributions to the geek community.

Do you have something like this? Maybe it’s a plaque, or a note of appreciation, or a shiny medal. What it is, isn’t important, my reader, what is important is to ask how have you done the same for your community members?

In the 12 years since I received my certificate, I’ve received a number of giveaways whether in the form of a cool gizmo or personalized letterheads, t-shirts and so on. I’ve treasured these, but for me personally, that piece of paper has motivated me the most as it was something concrete, which demonstrated an appreciation of my efforts.

What have you received that you’ve treasured? Maybe it’s just an online badge of recognition for your contributions on a forum or a piece of paper which makes you happy.

It’s funny that most of us, when we’re cultivating our communities, don’t focus on this aspect of appreciating the people who participate in it – the commenters on our blog or our website members or our community members. Now I don’t mean the occasional thank you, but you knew that, didn’t you?

I learned my lessons on appreciation from none other than the big bad boy of the software industry – MICROSOFT. Yep I even published a paper on how they appreciate their brand advocates. Surprisingly I couldn’t find a single person, (and I’ve Googled and Binged my fingers out trying) who’s documented this phenomenon.

I believe the power of enthusing your community rests in your ability to help your members shine and in appreciating what they do to make your community a community.

Below I’ve shared my discoveries on how the most awesome community leaders appreciate and make their communities grow by recognizing and rewarding their members.

Promise me that you’ll apply at least one of these ideas, beyond what you’re currently doing and report back here in the comments. Or at least share with everyone out here what ideas you’ve used successfully. DEAL?

So here goes – 10 different ways to reward and recognize your brand advocates, the people who make your community.

RECOGNITION: Five Ideas to Recognize Your Brand Advocates


Promote them – Offline is sometimes the best way to recognize your advocates. If you’re a big firm with a PR/corporate communication division, get them to do interviews with your key advocates, which can be

featured both online and offline. Your advocates will love the attention. If you’re just a lone blogger, or have a forum/community site, then do an interview with the contributors and feature them in one of your articles, get their picture in there.


Give them something to display – If you don’t already provide them with a plaque/certificate or similar item, make sure you give it to them. Simple things like online badges or a certificate like the one I got work wonders.


Preferred treatment– Shower them with love for e.g. at your conferences/events, make sure you provide them discounted offerings, separate seating for them right up front, maybe a separate dedicated Wi-Fi connection or a special lounge. If you’re a one man team, host special online events exclusively only for your brand advocates.


Enable Engagement with them- on your website and your social networks: Introduce a brand advocate of the month, featuring a key advocate, host them let them play a lead role for a day whether it’s via their blog post or virtual presentation by them or via a tweet chat or online skype calls between community members and them. Help them make new connections, they’ll remember and appreciate it for a long time. This might seem similar to the first suggestion, however, here instead of just shining the light on them provide them a direct way to engage with others.


Speaker/Contributor Bureau – Setup a registry/list of your top contributors/advocates and showcase them on your site. You could begin with just a simple list of people within your community and why you think they are cool. This is a longer term activity, different from the one time featuring of a person. This builds a deeper relationship and provides them long term visibility and recognition. If you’re a big company, create a visible list of speakers and provide facilities for your communities and user group leaders to request speakers. If budgets allow it, sponsor the speaker travel allowance for community events.

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STOP – Remember the promise you made at the start?

Do This ->Pick one, yes just one idea of the above, which you think you can apply, or an idea which you think you use better than the ones above, and add it to the comment box below. I and the readers of the blog will really appreciate and learn from your experience.

Thanks! Not that hard. Right! I almost thought you won’t share. I’ll talk about rewards now, and oh, also talk about some

gotchas you need to watch out for.

REWARDS: Five ideas to reward your brand advocates

When giving a reward follow these three principles as far as possible:

Make it Personal, Shareable and Unique

. Below are ideas to get you thinking:


Publications and Books – It’s very easy to tie-up with publishers/authors who can provide discounted offerings or free books for your advocates to review. E.g. in the clip_image006technology space check out publishers like O’Reilly, Pearson who’re extremely pro advocates and communities. Almost every industry has their share of publications who want more publicity. Additionally, encourage your advocates to submit their reviews of books on your community/blog sites, thereby benefitting the larger community.


Shareable Giveaways -E.g. Microsoft gives some of their advocates subscriptions to their MSDN which the advocates can further giveaway, the list price of which varies from $700 to almost $12000.

Now, I know not everybody is a Microsoft, however, get creative, how about letting your advocates give away your next eBook or whitepaper to others in their communities or via their blogs etc. Other giveaways could be complimentary coupons for training by partners, which they can further giveaway to others, thereby helping promote themselves and the partners.

3. clip_image009

Custom T-shirts/Letterheads/Envelopes – T-shirts/Jackets – which prominently state their expertise or contributions. These need to be cool, just slapping your logo on to a t-shirt is useless. How about something as simple as, providing printed envelopes or business cards with their name. This is uber cool if executed well.

4. Invite them to

share, contribute or co-author content with you – clip_image010Feature their articles on your blog/community sites, try and get content syndicated even in regular print channels if possible. Include links to their samples, and presentations within your articles, documentation and product literature.

5. clip_image011

Invite them to the inner circle – the group of people within your community who advise you on how to better serve the community, what to cover in your next blog post. Companies can provide them access to their top execs/teams/special events or include them in your product planning process, or you can share your next e-book or tips with them first. It’s an advanced idea which you would require to plan well in advance as you need to ensure that it’s special and provides great value.

What you should not do:


Cash Rewards direct to them is avoidable, as long term for any organization it’s unsustainable and for long term motivation it’s not really effective. Alternatively, you could possibly donate an x amount to their favorite charity. As far as possible provide rewards in kind.


Hiding the rules of engagement – Make it super transparent, create a prominently visible criteria and benefits document, ensure it’s easy to understand and encourages participation.

One Last Bonus Idea:

Segmentation/Levels – The idea here is to encourage and recognize different skills, expertise and contributions. For individual blogs, communities, this could be in terms of recognizing different kinds of people – some contribute articles, some provide their time guiding and supporting others, some are great at reviewing content etc.

For a company, segmentation of advocates can be based on the products they specialize in, on the kind of activities people do. E.g. people who blog, podcast, webcast, speak at events, contribute on forums, or their presence in traditional media. You might begin with a general overall reward & recognition program. However, you will need to segment as the number of your advocates and contributors increase. This will provide them more opportunities and provide you with many more opportunities to recognize and reward them.

This article was originally published as a guest post on Firepole Marketing

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Author: Sanjay Shetty

Sanjay Shetty is currently typing away furiously, putting the finishing touches on his book, the Brand Advocacy quick start guide, which covers his framework for building a brand advocacy program. He offers a great free report on “How to generate lots of content easily with brand advocates” available… View full profile ›

More by this author:Follow Sanjay Shetty: Sanjay Shetty on the Web Sanjay Shetty on Twitter Sanjay Shetty on LinkedIn Sanjay Shetty on Google Plus Sanjay Shetty RSS Feed

This article originally appeared on Community Connect and has been republished with permission.

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