Reasons People Will Pay

Rochelle Grayson

On Friday, I attended a workshop hosted by Vancouver's Merging Media called Access 360: Increasing ROI through Social Media and Gamification, with Rochelle Grayson and Scott Dodson. It was quite a valuable workshop that went far beyond the usual fluff about social media marketing and gamification and into real metrics, economics, game design theory, and more. One major topic covered by Rochelle Grayson on social media marketing was: What is it that people are willing to pay for? This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it helps those of us trying to make money off of projects make money off of projects. But it's not just about what people will pay for, in the sense of money. It also addresses any time the audience is asked for something -- their time, their attention, their action, whether that be liking a Facebook page or following you on Twitter (and putting up with your updates on their news feed), participating in an interactive story, or moving from one medium to another. You have to ask -- what is the audience getting from that? And is it something they want?

So what do people pay for?


People buy more expensive microwave meals because it saves them time. They spend lots of money at restaurants because they don't have to clean up after. People will pay for getting things faster.

If you have a serial story, perhaps you release it for free with one instalment at a time over the course of a year, but give it all at once to people who pay for it.

This also translates to the value of summaries -- if I can read a summary of a book, that may be all I have time for, or it may be preferable to buying the whole book if I'm not yet sure I'm going to like it. Curated links and summaries of articles save me the time of finding them for myself and reading things I don't really care about. You can provide value to a social media audience by doing just that.


People pay a premium at a 7-11 because it's probably closer and open at odd hours when nothing else is. People pay for convenience. Give your audience value by making life easier.


Related to time, people pay to have things now. The impulse buy is now the norm -- it's just the buy. People don't want to wait. This is the power of Netflix.


People pay to stay in a hotel rather than, y'know, a tent. I put a value on my comfort. And this was an interesting point:

Ads are a discomfort. They're a slight annoyance that we introduce into the user experience -- and that some people will pay to remove. So the question is (and this sounds so wrong) what slight annoyances will your audience put up with if they don't want to pay, but might be willing to pay to get around? That's what a lot of freemium models are built around, after all, and what a lot of these points boil down to.


People of course pay to be entertained, which is I think what a lot of us creators are counting on. In fact, Rochelle gave a very broad suggestion that people pay about $5 per hour of entertainment -- you go to a two-and-a-half-hour movie, you pay about $13, right? There are of course complexities that could warrant an article or five on their own, but it's an interesting benchmark.


We want to be the cool kid in high school, to feel good about ourselves. This could be achieved by donation -- we are supporting a cause, we are being generous, and that feels good. It could be about status, about looking good to your friends. We want to stroke our audience's ego, make them feel special, and they will pay for that.

Relationships and Belonging

We pay to connect with people. To feel closer to someone, to be part of a community. This is true from LinkedIn to dating sites, from the ability to say "I was a part of this" to being involved in the community around it. A common Kickstarter reward is access to special forums or input into the project, and no wonder. We all want to be in the VIP group.

This extends to premium content -- we'll pay to be part of the inner circle. It could also be facilitated conversation. The question you have to ask, though, is if I'm paying to be part of a VIP group, what are the perks I'm getting for that? Make that clear.


"You can only get this right now, and we only have ten to sell. Act fast." People pay when things are scarce. But this is also about premium items, limited edition objects -- 100 of these posters will be signed by the whole cast. This is of course related to status. It also encourages the impulse buy if the scarcity includes a time limit.

Health and Well-Being

This could be physical well-being or safety, but it also includes mental health, the reduction of stress. The phrase, "Don't worry -- I've got you covered," can be extremely powerful. People will pay if you offer them trust.


People pay to learn. In a social media context, this could be my willingness to like your page because you are going to deliver interesting, informative content to me. I'm going to learn new things for following you. From a transmedia point of view, this could be paying for a more engaging, interactive learning experience, since we know learning in this way is far more effective than didactic learning.


Related to vanity, people pay to express themselves. From the customization of avatars to sharing content as a means of expressing who you are and what you're interested in. People are all about defining themselves to their peers and the internet at large.


Finally, people pay money to make money. They sign up to services that give them a chance to make money, they gamble, they invest. Give them the possibility of making money off of something, and they may very well do it.

But Communicate The Value

You may be saying, "Why yes, we do offer x, y, and z to our audience," from the list above. What you have to make sure is that if you do, you are communicating it. Make sure your audience knows exactly what they'll be getting by giving you money, time, effort. Make it as clear and up front as you can. Tell them the value of their support.

Thanks to Merging Media, Rochelle Grayson, and Scott Dodson!