I wanted to do something nice this holiday season and decided to identify some of my power users on SceneKids.com and mail them Christmas cards and some SK stickers. The users I had selected were a mix of users that have been on the site since it launched in 2011 and the folks that had unlocked the “Logged in everyday for a year” badge. Along with the stickers, every card had a handwritten note from myself (some funnier / more personal than others) and I did that about 25 or so times. For the most part the process was somewhat painless but not without some quirks.

First, obtaining the user’s home addresses was an eye opening experience, well not really as I tend to expect the worst going into these things. Most of the users I wanted to send cards to were between the ages of 15 and 25, mostly front loaded. I understand that some people may not want to give their home address out, in fact every message I sent stated as such and if they didn’t want to provide it to just let me know so I can select another user. Most people didn’t bat an eye, a small number politely declined, a smaller number simply didn’t respond and were passed over and one person actually told me that they didn’t trust me and thought that I was going to show up on their doorstep. I was actually was a bit taken back by the candidness of that accusation but hey, lesson learned. Next time I do something like this I will actually be taking myself out of the address collection process and instead of emailing users directly, I will be setting up some sort of “system message” that will take them to a professional looking form to submit their address. I think that will end up being way less suspect.

There was a pretty interesting pattern that emerged with addresses, most folks didn’t include their name. This seemed to be isolated to the younger users that I assume don’t really get a lot of snail mail. For those folks I ended up addressing the card to their username. Luckily those users had pretty tame usernames, I couldn’t imagine what sort of angry email from a parent I would have received if a card showed up at their house addressed to “Cutting.Helps.Me.Feel” or some nonsense like that. The other peculiar thing about the addresses was that about half of the users that weren’t in the US said something like “yeah but I’m actually in _____” as if it was a US-only promotion or something. Maybe they run into that a lot or they simply don’t realize that we do actually have international stamps these days.

The really interesting part about all of this is the fact that there were at least a few users that gave completely different information from their profiles. I’m not just talking about masking where they were from on their profiles but actually what gender they were (had to jump to some conclusions as to whether or not a boy could be named that). I didn’t bother doing much digging on the matter but did get a good laugh that these kids would expose themselves like that. They are the ones I would have expected to decline to give up their address in the first place. We all know reality TV is staged but the concept behind “Catfish” is pretty real. I’ll save that discussion for another post though.

So at this point, I’ve mailed out the 25 cards and am pretty sure they have in fact all been delivered. The sad truth is that of those 25, I’ve only received like 7 or 8 “thank you” messages. Keep in mind, I didn’t do this so I could get lip service in return, I did it because I wanted to show some appreciation towards my users. I just sort of expected more folks to simply let me know that they received the card more so as a common courtesy. Probably not a surprise, but the folks that let me know they received their card were mostly the older and/or more mature users. At least none of the cards made it back to me, so that’s good at least.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! But I probably won’t ever do 25 in one shot again, a few here and a few there every month most likely. Biggest reason why? Because I want to make sure every card that goes out is handwritten and not some sterile corporate mass produced bulk mailing. I personally think that still matters, even if my cards had stuff scribbled out because I don’t even own any White-Out ;)

Have you ever done anything similar for your users? Anything different or [subjectively] better? I would definitely love to hear your ideas. Justin Davis said he’s going to be making rainbow loom bracelets for his Drawer power users. Full disclosure, I’ll probably be stealing that one. Comment below, maybe I’ll steal your ideas too!