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Last month, my wife and I jumped on a plane out of Salt Lake City and headed toward what my wife refers to as “the most magical place on earth,” Walt Disney World. Why were we going when we don’t have any kids? I can promise you it wasn’t because of all the wonderful childhood memories. After all, this would technically be my first time.

I went for the food.

This was not just any food, mind you. I’m talking fillets, lobster, bread pudding and more! We sampled everything from the fufu of Africa to the burgers of a Sci-Fi diner. The best part was that the food was free! That’s right. We ate free for the entire week.

Why am I talking about this in an SEO post? It is because amid the lobster, the best milk-shakes of my life, and riding Everest seven times in a row, I began to realize that I had been tricked. Walt Disney in all his cunning had unraveled the magic of successfully inspiring his customers. He understood the principles behind making a customer both happy and engaged. While Disney incented me to become a customer through free food, business owners have used other giveaways to develop opportunities to involve, channel, and give back to their customer community.

Involve Your Customers

The International Olympic Committee recently announced a social challenge called The Best of Us. Utilizing YouTube, Olympic athletes are challenging the young crowd to film themselves completing various challenges and submit the video. Winners will receive everything from T-shirts, to tickets to the Olympic Games.

In recent years the committee has seen a drop in interest from younger generations, and they know they need to act quickly or lose their audience. Setting YouTube as the platform for this involvement campaign brings the Olympics into an environment that their viewers are comfortable with. Assuming that their audience decides to become involved, we should see a viral spread of some of the more impressive videos that have been submitted for the contest.

I rate this as a “good” offer. The actual act required to receive the benefit does not increase your company’s revenue, but it gives your customer a chance to challenge himself, and become more engaged with a great product or activity. YouTube viewers love to see and promote impressive videos done by regular people. We’ll see if the execution of the Olympic campaign brings about the intended goal.

Channel the Community

With the example of the Olympic Challenge, we see an opportunity to inspire individuals to better themselves, but Disney has a current campaign that takes this one step further. Through an initiative called Give a Day Get a Disney Day, Disney challenges us to seek volunteer opportunities and give a day of service. In return, Disney will give one day admission to either Disney World or Disneyland.

This campaign does not engage the customer through a digital platform at all. In fact, it is encouraging the audience to step away from the digital world while performing these acts of service. Effective?

Disney’s idea is counter intuitive, but I personally consider this to be a “better” offer. The intent of the offer is to get the customer to look away from themselves and serve in their community. Guess how many individual bloggers would love to post pictures and summaries along with links to Disney promoting the campaign?

Disney has the goal of getting one million volunteers to participate. We will assume that a fraction of the participants is made up of bloggers, some fraction will be active social network users, and a small fraction will have some other form of a personal website. If the campaign becomes a success in the eyes of the participants, you can bet that they will do their best to evangelize, and that means social promoting, links, and higher customer devotion for Disney.

Give Back

Here at SEO.com we have been trying to do our part to give through the Ultimate Web Marketing Makeover. Our company has seen great successes during a time when other companies may be hurting, and we see our chance to give back. Throughout the month of October we accepted submissions from companies all over.

Aside from being a great opportunity to give back, we found that this was a great chance to increase awareness of what our company represents. We saw thousands of people reached via Twitter and Facebook. Each digital impression is a chance to reach a new customer. Each time that impression is placed in front of a blogger, he has the chance to write a post about your activities. Each email you send to webmasters inviting them to promote your event is a chance to gain a business partnership.

When you are willing to give, your customers are willing to give as well. That is the Law of Reciprocity. Your customers will see your efforts to give back to them, and it will create more respect for your business. While this would be reward enough, links will have a funny way of heading in your direction. News sites and bloggers will spread their opinion of your efforts.

I encourage you to look at your sphere of influence. Think about what you can do to support your customers and give back to the community. Set a plan in motion to involve your customers, encourage them to excel, or give back to the community that helped your company to grow. If you do this, you’ll find that your customers will develop a greater respect for you. When respect for you grows, the internet community starts to talk, and I bet you’ll see some links coming your way.