June 23, 2006
In two related moves to make its agent network more attractive to advertisers, BzzAgent announced that it would expel up to 10,000 "pests" from its network (roughly 5%) and re-engineer its rewards system to attract and retain valuable agents.
For most companies, a housekeeping move like this wouldn’t be publicized – but BzzAgent isn’t a traditional company. The company has already demonstrated a great deal of public self-awareness, examples being the "90 days" blog and political manuvering within WOMMA. The need to clean up the agent network was inevitable and BzzAgent’s announcement pre-empts the predictable ensuing backlash. In a good show of listening to their stakeholders, a healthy discussion is in progress on the BzzAgent blog.
The decision to re-engineer the rewards system however is curious – when it should just be eliminated altogether. A low rewards redemption rate (13%) can be attributed to many factors and it’s in BzzAgent’s best accounting interest to quickly dissipate its accrual for unused credit. BzzAgent states that agents value "experiencing new products" as the highest benefit of participation and while earning rewards ranks next to last.
BzzAgent already keeps a public top agents list – and should enhance their entire network with public rankings and profiles. Let the bees hunt and gather, linking into personal blogs and other personal artifacts, giving even more data for advertisers to use. BzzAgent would do well to let the benefits of membership and participation speak for themselves. Recognizing prolific agents with a system like eBay stars or Amazon badges would make sense – along with a higher frequency of access to campaigns. Eliminating the rewards system eliminates perception of bias in agent participation – along with pests who are only in it for the points.
In the long run, both moves make the network a more attractive resource for marketers, which results in wins for campaigns (e.g. better sample sets), agents (e.g. more access), and BzzAgent (e.g. more revenue).