I recently created a blog asking people to discuss their missed opportunities, hoping to spark more conversation. I am getting some traffic but no one ever posts anything. As a promotion, I starting offering a $25 dollar gift card to anyone who submits a story that we use. Is this marketing idea worthwhile?
Yes. I think that incentizing activity on your blog is a great idea. I often think of the phrase -- "No one tags a empty wall". Of course this isn't always true -- there is the tagger -- and the poster -- who like to be first. But it is much easier being the second or the third of the fourth.
So the question is, what is the appropriate incentive? Is $25? Seems like a lot at first blush to me -- but I don't know what that includes and I don't know your market. Most importantly I don't know your business model or advertising budget.
Perhaps there are other incentives that would work better?
Does your audience hit the demographic that really wants a iPad? Perhaps every post they make that is approved and used results in an entry into a drawing for an iPad?
Does your audience really like sports? Perhaps every post they make is a entry in a drawing for tickets to their favorite professional team?
Does your audience like to eat out? Then perhaps you could give one $25/gift card each day for a week to a random poster?
The key is that the promotion should tie into the content of your company in some way-- it should reinforce the value proposition of the site itself. And equally important is that the promotion needs to be properly supported with marketing. What good is it if no one knows about it? My assumption would be that decreasing from $25 to $20 and putting the $5 into PPC advertising promoting the opportunity would be even better.
A $25 prize isn't going to incentivize someone with valuable insights who is very busy. It's kind of the worst of two worlds: it's expensive to you to keep paying $25 a post for articles that may or may not attract new activity. And the amount is sort of low as a fee.
Even promoting this prize is a problem given what you have said - who will see the promotion in order to respond?
Ideally, the content that already exists on a site spurs some visitors to create their own stories and submit them. Some very successful multiple author blogs don't pay anything for contributions.
To me it seems like the choice is fairly clear. You need to prime the pump by creating content yourself that attracts this kind of attention.
Perhaps you could search for existing articles on other people's blogs and inquire to each author of an interesting article if they would be willing to have their post republished on your site, with credit.
Also, besides SEO, promoting with social networking, bla bla bla. :) I'm not making light of social networking here. I mean that you need to find relevant avenues for visitors to find you.
Give points instead of dollars. They're cheaper for you and seem to work well here.