When thinking of ways to motivate users for their participation in online communities, the first thing you think about are rewards. It just seems logical to give people something with the hopes of that reward becoming a key motivator for continued participation. The question becomes, what “kind” of rewards. Should they be virtual or physical rewards? Do we issues points, ratings, gift certificates?

I am not a big fan of rewards, at least not a steady stream of them. Because one you start, it’s hard to stop. But I do believe there may be times when they are valuable, because every community is different, and the right set of circumstances could require rewards. One caveat: Don’t make it the main reason for people to join, and definitely not a reason at all for keeping them there. You want genuine participation that is not based what you’re giving them for being there.

I’m saying all of this to share some news I came across today, about  YAWMA (a Facebook app)  launching a new community that allows users to earn cash rewards for engagement. Now THAT is the ultimate reward.  I’m not judging this strategy, just sharing.  So if you have a few minutes, read the press release for yourself….

YAWMA Uses Facebook to Launch New Marketplace for Independent Music and Games

New Online Community Revolutionizes Idea Of Social Sharing By Allowing Users To Earn Cash Rewards For Engagement

ORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ — YAWMA, an online community and marketplace, launched today. The service allows users to discover, download and share high-quality independently produced digital content through Facebook and earn cash rewards for their participation. YAWMA launched with both independent music and game content.

“YAWMA is grounded in two basic ideas,” said Thomas Brooke, CEO and founder. “First, we wanted to bring a high degree of social sharing innovation to the purchasing of music and games. Second, we wanted to reward users for the value they create within a social network.”

Here’s how it works. YAWMA is a Facebook App that allows users to create social discovery and sharing networks (or YAWMAs) by inviting Facebook friends to join them. The App delivers to users on Facebook one-click access to music and game demos. When a user finds music or a game they like and purchase it, a recommendation is sent to members of their YAWMA. The recommendation also posts through their Facebook news feed with one click access to the music sample or a game demo.

“In today’s over-saturated digital stores like iTunes, it is exceedingly difficult to sort through the massive amounts of content and find cool new music and great games,” Brooke said. “With YAWMA, we only carry high-quality indie content so social discovery isn’t simply further marketing noise about top-20 hits. We elevate this content to the broader market it deserves while providing consumers with the benefit of a simple and fun way to discover great new downloads through Facebook. There is no need to recreate relationships on yet another social network.”

YAWMA is designed to form a vibrant community through the overlapping nature of the individual YAWMAs and various features that allow and promote broader interactions. Discovery and sharing is made into a social game as users compete to become the taste-maker, or “The Maven,” of product categories. The platform then showcases the community experts who earn this distinction for their engagement (e.g. writing reviews, liking songs, commenting on posts and/or purchasing). Community members can also “follow” each other and share the music or games they have found most interesting.

In addition to social discovery innovation, YAWMA was founded on the belief that users should be rewarded for the value they create within social networks. Brooke explained, “Everyone wants to discuss how to monetize a social network but no one mentions in that discussion the real drivers to value creation within social networks. It’s the people and their sharing of meta data with friends.”

YAWMA works much like a co-op where a percentage of profits generated through each user’s YAWMA is distributed back to the YAWMA members based on criteria including product purchase influencers and total purchases made.

Brooke continued, “We saw an industry that had an abundance of incredible content that was hard to find, users that increasingly relied on online social connectivity in their daily lives, and incredible value being generated by those users through their social interactions, so we created the technology that allowed us to connect all those together into a single business idea.”

YAWMA maintains the quality of its content by having industry experts review and approve content added to its library. YAWMA launched with tracks from over 300 bands across all musical genres including pop, rap, indie, electronic, blues, country and World. YAWMA has also partnered with IRIS, one of the premiere aggregators of independent music and expects to offer IRIS-managed content later in September. Plans for YAWMA include expanding into other content areas and integrating with other preferred social media including Twitter.

“We’re very excited about partnering with innovative new music services such as YAWMA,” said Bryn Boughton, IRIS’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We see YAWMA’s social discovery engine and co-op business model as a compelling new idea for distributing independent music and look forward to working with them to help people find and enjoy new music.”

“We’re a very small company but with what we think is a really big idea,” said Brooke. “Simplifying social discovery and sharing through integration with preferred social channels makes sense. People are busy so we were not going to expect them to recreate and manage yet another social channel in order to discover and share. And we felt that our social discovery idea makes sense across lots of product categories and not just music. Add to this, a co-op profit sharing for the purchasing that occurs, and you have what we think is a new Web 3.0 retail business model.”

YAWMA is an online marketplace that allows you to discover and share indie music and games through Facebook while earning cash rewards for your participation in our community. It’s a small company, with a revolutionary idea – that you should benefit from the value you create online. Find us here: yawma.net or on Facebook at: facebook.com/YAWMA or follow us on our Twitter feed: YAWMAmusic.